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1st Answer:

A serf is a person in a condition of servitude, required to render services to a lord, commonly attached to the lord's land and transferred with it from one owner to another. Prior to that, he or she was known as A HUMAN BEING!

2nd Answer:

There were a large number of Anglo saxon terms for serfs of varying status. Among those I have been able to find are the following:

  • Bordar, serf
  • Cottar, free peasant
  • Gebur, free peasant
  • Geneat, free peasant
  • Laet, serf
  • Nieffe, serf
  • Peder, free peasant
  • Theow, slave
  • Thrall, slave

The difference between serf and slave is that the serf could not be sold and had certain important rights, including rights to land, home, and protection. By contrast, the slave was property and had only the most limited rights. The concept of a serf is derived from the Roman coloni, with the restricted rights enacted by Constantine the Great in 330; the coloni were free farmers who were not permitted to leave their villas in much the same way serfs were tied to their manors. The system was modified and refined about the time of Louis the Pious.

The source for the above list seems to be a bit unreliable, as I could see one or two definitions outside this list that were clearly wrong. Nevertheless, it gives some Anglo Saxon words for serfs.

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Q: What were British serf's originally known as?
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