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[surf] /sɜrf/
a person in a condition of servitude, required to render services to a lord, commonly attached to the lord's land and transferred with it from one owner to another.
a slave.
1475-85; < Middle French < Latin servus slave
Related forms
serfdom, serfhood, serfage, noun
Can be confused
serf, surf.
1. vassal, villein, peasant. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for serfs
  • Instead of running his country estate himself, he turns it over to his serfs to manage.
  • Politics will be much different when all the serfs realize they are the serfs.
  • Especially when they want to turn the rest of their neighbors into their personal serfs.
  • But, concession hunters themselves are also poor and unhappy serfs who live horrible lives in fear of their individual doomsdays.
  • These are domains with serfs and fiefdoms and all the paraphernalia of any power hierarchy.
  • One of these is water, to which all potentates and serfs are in the end equally subservient.
  • The belief by some that partnerships, alliances and contracts turn farmers into serfs for hire is nonsense.
  • The peasants were often called serfs because they were not free and could not leave the area in which they worked.
  • Certainly the farmers of those early years were far from the indigent serfs they were commonly imagined to be.
  • They are in fact considerably worse off than before the emancipation of the serfs.
British Dictionary definitions for serfs


(esp in medieval Europe) an unfree person, esp one bound to the land. If his lord sold the land, the serf was passed on to the new landlord
Derived Forms
serfdom, serfhood, noun
serflike, adjective
Word Origin
C15: from Old French, from Latin servus a slave; see serve
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for serfs



late 15c., "servant, serving-man, slave," from Old French serf "vassal, servant, slave" (12c.), from Latin servum (nominative servus) "slave" (see serve). Fallen from use in original sense by 18c. Meaning "lowest class of cultivators of the soil in continental European countries" is from 1610s. Use by modern writers with reference to medieval Europeans first recorded 1761 (contemporary Anglo-Latin records used nativus, villanus, or servus).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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serfs in Culture

serf definition

Under feudalism, a peasant bound to his lord's land and subject to his lord's will, but entitled to his lord's protection.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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