in typography, "fine cross-stroke put as a finish at the top and bottom of a letter," 1841, a letter-founder's word, earlier ceref (1827), also ceriph, seriph; see sans-serif.
Entries linking to serif
also sanserif, "printing type without finishing cross-lines on the main strokes," 1830, from French sans "without" (see sans) + English serif (1841), earlier ceref (1827). This is perhaps from Dutch and Flemish schreef "a line, a stroke," a noun related to schrijven "to write," a Germanic borrowing from Latin scribere "to write" (from PIE root *skribh- "to cut"). OED finds the Dutch and Flemish word "fairly suits the sense and form; but historical evidence is wanting, and the quasi-French form of sans-ceriph is not accounted for." Short form sans is by 1927.
*skrībh-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to cut, separate, sift;" an extended form of root *sker- (1) "to cut."
It forms all or part of: ascribe; ascription; circumscribe; conscript; conscription; describe; description; festschrift; inscribe; inscription; manuscript; postscript; prescribe; prescription; proscribe; sans-serif; scribble; scribe; script; scriptorium; scripture; scrivener; serif; shrift; shrive; subscribe; superscribe; superscript; transcribe; scarification; scarify.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek skariphasthai "to scratch an outline, sketch;" Latin scribere "to write" (to carve marks in wood, stone, clay, etc.); Lettish skripat "scratch, write;" Old Norse hrifa "scratch."
updated on May 23, 2022