serf·​dom ˈsərf-dəm How to pronounce serfdom (audio)
: the condition of a tenant farmer bound to a hereditary plot of land and to the will of a landlord : the state or fact of being a serf
Despite obvious personal repugnance for serfdom, she enhanced the powers of nobles to demand more labor from their ill-treated and unorganized serfs.Carol S. Leonard
Servitude stretched from serfdom in Russia to the sugar plantations of the Caribbean to the indigenous slave systems in Africa that supplied both the Arabian and Atlantic trades.Adam Hochschild

Examples of serfdom in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web As the Big Three continue to drive down the road to serfdom, car production will continue in the United States. The Editors, National Review, 18 Sep. 2023 Following Mexico's independence in 1821, a small landowning elite replaced the colonial rulers, and most of the farmers (except those who joined farming collectives) transitioned from slavery to serfdom. Travel + Leisure Editors, Travel + Leisure, 22 June 2023 The pandemic decreased competition among laborers, raising wages and putting the oppressive system of serfdom in a death spiral. Cody Cassidy, Smithsonian Magazine, 13 June 2023 All designed to warn us that behind the veneer of jurisprudential poise and Middle American decency, Amy Coney Barrett is some theocratic medievalist monster, primed to send women back to the kitchen, African-Americans back to the plantations, and the country back to serfdom. Gerard Baker, WSJ, 19 Oct. 2020 Birmingham sketches out Russia’s mid-century byzantine chaos with a deft hand, up to the point in 1849 when Dostoevsky was sentenced to death for associating with the Petrashevsky Circle, a progressive group that advocated the ending of serfdom and other measures inimical to czarist autocracy. Washington Post, 3 Dec. 2021 Much of the population, just a couple of generations away from serfdom, lived in abject poverty. Keith Gessen, The New Yorker, 21 Feb. 2023 The novel wasn't just controversial in America: It was also reputedly banned in Czarist Russia, which was in the process of ending its own system of serfdom. Joel Mathis, The Week, 22 Sep. 2022 Passing it would help keep the state off the well-trod road to fiscal serfdom. James Freeman, WSJ, 9 Sep. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'serfdom.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


serf + -dom

First Known Use

1837, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of serfdom was in 1837

Dictionary Entries Near serfdom

Cite this Entry

“Serfdom.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Apr. 2024.

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