serial (adj.)

"arranged or disposed in a rank or row; forming part of a series; coming in regular succession," 1840, from series + -al (1). French sérial also seems to originate around 1840. Popularized in English in reference to Dickens' novels, which were first published over time in periodicals (as opposed to all at once in a book). The word was found to be useful to English and from the 1850s it was given wide application.

Serial number, indicating position in a series, first recorded 1866, originally of papers, packages, etc.; of soldiers from 1918. Serial killer is first attested 1981 (in relation to John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy), though serial had been used in connection with murders since the early 1960s. Related: Serially.

serial (n.)

1845, "a tale published in successive numbers of a periodical," from serial (adj.). Short for serial novel, etc. By 1914 as "a film shown in episodes," later extended to radio programs, etc.

updated on May 20, 2022