- 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.
- (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
n.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). Under feudalism, a peasant bound to his lord’s land and subject to his lord’s will, but entitled to his lord’s protection.