serf·​dom | \ ˈsərf-dəm How to pronounce serfdom (audio) , -təm \

Definition of serfdom

: 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 The shift in power set into motion by the black death—the opportunity that came when the world split open—led to money replacing obligation and the abolition of serfdom in much of the West. Kevin Baker, Harper's Magazine, "Things to Come," 23 June 2020 Bubonic plague killed half the population of full continents and, therefore, had a tremendous effect on the coming of the industrial revolution, on slavery and serfdom. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, "How Pandemics Change History," 3 Mar. 2020 When, in 1861, serfdom was abolished in the rest of Russia, millions of the newly free but landless flocked there, assisted by the Russian state. The Economist, "Siberia is an empty land filled with contradictions," 21 Dec. 2019 Illinois property taxpayers, with their home values dropping and their taxes constantly rising, have been on the road to serfdom for far too long. John Kass,, "Column: The Chicago teachers strike and property taxpayers and the road to serfdom," 18 Oct. 2019 My thinking about Tibet had been fully shaped by Chinese propaganda, which held that China had freed Tibetans from serfdom and brought them prosperity and happiness. Yaqiu Wang, Twin Cities, "Yaqiu Wang: Why so many Chinese students can’t understand the Hong Kong protests," 27 Aug. 2019 Without that system, there is only serfdom, permanent underclass status for the poor or the violent reordering of things by taking wealth from those who have it. WSJ, "Harvard, Living Unselfishly and Capitalism," 23 June 2019 In Europe, this started to change after the French Revolution, which abolished feudalism and serfdom. Robert Sullivan, Vogue, "What If There Were No Borders?," 30 Nov. 2018 But gradually in the course of the nineteenth century, more European countries abolished serfdom, including in Russia, in 1861. Robert Sullivan, Vogue, "What If There Were No Borders?," 30 Nov. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'serfdom.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of serfdom

1837, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of serfdom was in 1837

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Last Updated

1 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Serfdom.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Aug. 2020.

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How to pronounce serfdom (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of serfdom

: the state of being a serf

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Britannica English: Translation of serfdom for Arabic Speakers

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