A serf is an agricultural laborer who is bound to the land and to the lord of the manor to whom they owe labor obligations and other forms of service in exchange for protection and land to cultivate.
Part of speech
vassal, peasant, laborer, villein, bondman, helot, thrall, indentured servant, slave.
Lord, noble, aristocrat, master, landowner, ruler.
- In medieval Europe, serfs were often tied to the land and could not leave their lord’s estate without permission.
- The serf system was abolished in Russia in 1861, freeing millions of peasants from bondage.
- The life of a serf was harsh and difficult, with long hours of labor and little freedom to make decisions about their own lives.
- The feudal system of the Middle Ages was characterized by a rigid hierarchy of lords, knights, peasants, and serfs.
The word “serf” is often used in historical contexts to describe the laborers who worked the land in medieval Europe and other feudal societies. The term comes from the Latin word “servus,” meaning slave, and reflects the fact that serfs were bound to the land and the lord of the manor, much like slaves.
There are several variations of the word “serf” in different languages, including “servile” in English, “servo” in Spanish, and “serviteur” in French. These words also reflect the root meaning of servitude or slavery. Meanwhile, the word “serfdom” is used to describe the entire system of feudal labor that existed in Europe during the Middle Ages. The prefix “serf-” is also used in the word “serfdom” to indicate this system of servitude.
Today, the word “serf” is not commonly used outside of historical discussions, as the feudal system has long since been abolished in most parts of the world. However, the experiences of serfs and other laborers in history continue to inform our understanding of inequality and exploitation in society. In particular, the plight of serfs has been used as an example of how the powerful can take advantage of the weak, and the importance of fighting for workers’ rights and freedom