From earlier ceriph, ceref, of obscure derivation. There are two (not directly interrelated) candidates for a possible Dutch origin: 1.) the noun schreef (“stroke”, now also “serif” as a semantic loan), related with schrapen (“to scrape”); and 2.) the verb schrafferen (“to provide with horizontal lines, to shade”), from Italian sgraffiare. For the latter compare German Schraffe (“serif”), although this again may be a semantic loan based on the English word rather than original to it.
serif (plural serifs)
- (typography) A short line added to the end of a stroke in traditional typefaces, such as Times New Roman.