Serf, medieval peasant generally bound to the land. A serf held the lowest status in the feudal hierarchy and owed allegiance, service, and often certain payments to the lord. The serf retained a number of hereditary rights that were usually determined by local custom. With the development of a money economy and the growth of towns, many serfs escaped or purchased their freedom, and by the 18th century serfdom had largely died out. In Russia and parts of eastern Europe, however, forms of serfdom survived into the 19th century.
See also: Manorialism.