Etymology
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seraglio (n.)

1580s, in reference to Muslim lands, "the part of the dwelling where the women are secluded," also the name of a former palace of the sultan in Istanbul, which contained his harem; from Italian seraglio, alteration of Turkish saray "palace, court," from Persian sara'i "palace, inn." This is from the Iranian base *thraya- "to protect" (source also of Avestan thrayeinti "they protect"), from PIE *tra-, a variant form of the root *tere- (2) "cross over, pass through, overcome."

The Italian word probably reflects folk etymology influence of serraglio "enclosure, cage," from Medieval Latin serraculum "bung, stopper" (see serried). Sometimes in English in early use serail, via French sérail, which is from the Italian word. The meaning "inmates of a harem" is attested by 1630s.

updated on May 16, 2022

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