Definitions

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

  • n. A member of the lowest feudal class, attached to the land owned by a lord and required to perform labor in return for certain legal or customary rights.
  • n. An agricultural laborer under various similar systems, especially in 18th- and 19th-century Russia and eastern Europe.
  • n. A person in bondage or servitude.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A partially free peasant of a low hereditary class, slavishly attached to the land owned by a feudal lord and required to perform labour, enjoying minimal legal or customary rights.
  • n. A similar agricultural labourer in 18th and 19th century Europe.
  • n. A worker unit.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A servant or slave employed in husbandry, and in some countries attached to the soil and transferred with it, as formerly in Russia.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A villein; one of those who in the middle ages were in capable of holding property, were attached to the land and transferred with it, and were subject to feudal services of the most menial description; in early English history, one who was not free, but by reason of being allowed to have an interest in the cultivation of the soil, and a portion of time to labor for himself, had attained a status superior to that of a slave.
  • n. A laborer rendering forced service on an estate under seigniorial prescription, as formerly in Russia.
  • n. Figuratively, an oppressed person; a menial.
  • n. Synonyms Serf, Slave. The serf is, in strictness, attached to the soil, and goes with it in all sales or leases. The slave is absolutely the property of his master, and may be sold, given away, etc., like any other piece of personal property. See definitions of peon and coolie. See also servitude.

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

  • n. (Middle Ages) a person who is bound to the land and owned by the feudal lord

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old French, from Latin servus, slave.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French serf, from Latin servusĀ ("slave, serf, servant"), perhaps of Etruscan origin (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The relationship between master and slave, or between fuedal lord and serf, is clear and obvious; the market, while permitting far more efficient use of labor, also makes it harder to see.

    A Bland and Deadly Courtesy

  • Pogo Meets Chicken Little yahooBuzzArticleHeadline = 'Pogo Meets Chicken Little'; yahooBuzzArticleSummary = 'Article: Look up the word serf in your dictionary.

    Pogo Meets Chicken Little

  • This formula she abolished, and boasted that she had cast out the word serf from the

    The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 10, No. 61, November, 1862

  • But even if you call the serf a beast of the field, he was not what we have tried to make the town workman -- a beast with no field.

    Eugenics and Other Evils

  • Welsh slaves; indeed, in Anglo-Saxon, the word serf and Welshman are used almost interchangeably as equivalent synonyms.

    Early Britain Anglo-Saxon Britain

  • A serf was a person who did not own his own labor.

    Archive 2008-04-06

  • Well, that was the case in the 10th, 11th century, and that is why the word -- that's how the word slave originated, because the original Latin word servus, for a slave, lost its utility because it was applied to serfs and it became the word we now call serf, and so when you needed a word for slaves, got to find another one that was identified with this group.

    Freedom in the Making of Western Culture

  • The firing of a serf was a serious business; the chances were that that serf would not be able to get another position, and would have to leave the planet.

    Out of Phaze

  • Indeed, the ignorance, stupidity, and wretchedness of the serf were the strength of the noble, and give convincing proof of his own intellect.

    The Continental Monthly, Vol 6, No 5, November 1864 Devoted To Literature And National Policy

  • A serf was a serf and his position would never change.

    The Story of Mankind

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.