Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A member of the lowest feudal class, legally bound to a landed estate and required to perform labor for the lord of that estate in exchange for a personal allotment of land.
  • noun An agricultural laborer under various similar systems, especially in Russia and eastern Europe in the 1700s and 1800s.
  • noun A person in bondage or servitude.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun 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.
  • noun A laborer rendering forced service on an estate under seigniorial prescription, as formerly in Russia.
  • noun Figuratively, an oppressed person; a menial.
  • noun 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 the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

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

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun 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.
  • noun A similar agricultural labourer in 18th and 19th century Europe.
  • noun A worker unit.

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

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

Etymologies

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

[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin servus, slave.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old French serf, from Latin servus ("slave, serf, servant"), perhaps of Etruscan origin

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

  • 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

  • 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

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