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

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 African Americans were thus moved from slavery to serfdom. Kevin Baker, The New Republic, "Why America needs truth and reconciliation after Trump," 17 May 2018 The gentry is lighter-toned and obsessed with skin bleaching, and the maji have been reduced to serfdom and slavery. Vann R. Newkirk Ii, The Atlantic, "Where Fantasy Meets Black Lives Matter," 6 Mar. 2018 The pivotal issues over the years have been deeper: slavery, serfdom, Jim Crow laws in the South, school segregation, housing, employment and voting discrimination—the consequences of white resistance, conscious or not, to black advancement. Edward Kosner, WSJ, "‘Separate and Unequal’ Review: ‘Two Societies, One Black, One White’," 2 Mar. 2018 Turgenev’s book did much to stoke the fast-growing criticism of serfdom, which was abolished nine years later, in 1861, by the progressive Czar Alexander II. Karl Ove Knausgaard, New York Times, "A Literary Road Trip Into the Heart of Russia," 14 Feb. 2018 Its peasants had been freed from serfdom only a decade before, nearly a century late by the Western European clock. David Sessions, New Republic, "The Radical Hopes of the Russian Revolution," 20 Sep. 2017

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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Serengeti Plain







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Last Updated

10 Jul 2019

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The first known use of serfdom was in 1837

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English Language Learners Definition of serfdom

: the state of being a serf

More from Merriam-Webster on serfdom

Britannica English: Translation of serfdom for Arabic Speakers

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