Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A large harem.
  • n. A sultan's palace. Also called serai.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The palace of the Grand Seignior in Constantinople.
  • n. The sequestered living quarters used by wives and concubines in a Turkish Muslim household.
  • n. A brothel or place of debauchery.
  • n. An interior cage or enclosed courtyard for keeping wild beasts.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An inclosure; a place of separation.
  • n. The palace of the Grand Seignior, or Turkish sultan, at Constantinople, inhabited by the sultan himself, and all the officers and dependents of his court. In it are also kept the females of the harem.
  • n. A harem; a place for keeping wives or concubines; sometimes, loosely, a place of licentious pleasure; a house of debauchery.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. An inclosure; a place to which certain persons are confined, or where they are restricted within prescribed bounds.
  • n. A walled palace; specifically, the chief or official palace of the Sultan of Turkey at Constantinople. It is of great size, and contains government buildings, mosques, etc., as well as the sultan's harem.
  • n. A place for the seclusion of concubines; a harem; hence, a place of licentious pleasure.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. living quarters reserved for wives and concubines and female relatives in a Muslim household

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Italian serraglio, enclosure, seraglio, probably partly from Vulgar Latin *serraculum, enclosure (from *serrāre, to lace up, from Latin serāre, from sera, door-bar) and partly from Turkish saray, palace (from Persian sarāy, inn).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Italian seraglio, from Vulgar Latin *serrāculum, from a late form of Latin serāre ("lock up, close"), from sera ("lock, bolt"). The Italian word was used (because of phonetic similarity) to translate Persian سرای (sarāy, "lodgings, residence"). Compare serai, serail.

Examples

  • Christian writers and readers are too apt to confound the seraglio with the harem, and to suppose that the former means the apartments belonging to the sultan's ladies; whereas the word seraglio, or rather _sernil_, represents the entire palace of which the harem, or females 'dwelling, is but a comparatively small portion.

    Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf

  • In fact, the harem was the section of the palace that housed the sultan’s family and was known as the seraglio.

    The Thieves of Darkness

  • "Well, yes, I think so," said Jack; "dancing Circassian girls and the seraglio was the topic of the conversation, unless I am wandering in my mind."

    Jack Harkaway's Boy Tinker Among The Turks Book Number Fifteen in the Jack Harkaway Series

  • The seraglio is a vast inclosure, occupying nearly the entire site of the ancient city of Byzantium, and embracing a circumference of five miles.

    Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf

  • Manon Baletti, who was too happy to have had an opportunity of spewing her affection for me; and her joy was full when I told her that I was going to give up business, for she thought that my seraglio was the only obstacle to my marriage with her.

    The memoirs of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt

  • Afterwards I went to sup with Manon Baletti, who was too happy to have had an opportunity of spewing her affection for me; and her joy was full when I told her that I was going to give up business, for she thought that my seraglio was the only obstacle to my marriage with her.

    The Complete Memoirs of Jacques Casanova

  • The luscious passion of the seraglio is the only one almost that is gratified here to the full; but it is blended so with the surly spirit of despotism in one of the parties, and with the dejection and anxiety which this spirit produces in the other, that, to one of my way of thinking, it cannot appear otherwise than as a very mixed kind of enjoyment.

    Letters of the Right Honourable Lady M--y W--y M--e

  • I did not omit this opportunity of learning all that I possibly could of the seraglio, which is so entirely unknown amongst us.

    Letters of the Right Honourable Lady M--y W--y M--e

  • Indeed, when Ruth waited a moment before spelling "seraglio," Rosa in her haste blurted out the word, and Julia smiled and there was a little rustle of expectancy.

    Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill Or, Jasper Parloe's Secret

  • Curled up in his seraglio-inspired space, I took in the visual splendor — the towering four-poster mirrored bed with striped silk taffeta upholstery, the wall-to-wall caramel cashmere underfoot, the yards of couture curtains across simple French windows and the endless originality — which all added up to a tailored, comfortable, no-grandmother-in-sight inner sanctum.

    Bye-Bye, Bed Skirts

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