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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Seraglio \Se*ragl"io\, n. [It. serraglio, originally, an inclosure of palisades, afterwards also, a palace, seraglio (by confusion with Per. ser[=a]["i]a a palace, an entirely different word), fr. serrare to shut, fr. LL. serra a bar for fastening doors, L. sera. See Serry, Series.]

  1. An inclosure; a place of separation. [Obs.]

    I went to the Ghetto, where the Jews dwell as in a suburb, by themselves. I passed by the piazza Judea, where their seraglio begins.

  2. The palace of the Grand Seignior, or Turkish sultan, at Constantinople, inhabited by the sultan himself, and all the officers and dependents of his court. In it are also kept the females of the harem.

  3. A harem; a place for keeping wives or concubines; sometimes, loosely, a place of licentious pleasure; a house of debauchery.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

"harem," also the name of a former palace of the sultan in Istanbul, 1580s, from Italian seraglio, alteration of Turkish saray "palace, court," from Persian sara'i "palace, inn," from Iranian base *thraya- "to protect" (cognates: Avestan thrayeinti "they protect"), from PIE *tra-, variant form of root *tere- (2) "to cross over, pass through, overcome" (see through).\n

\nThe Italian word probably reflects folk etymology influence of serraglio "enclosure, cage," from Medieval Latin serraculum "bung, stopper" (see serried).


n. 1 The palace of the Grand Seignior in Constantinople. 2 The sequestered living quarters used by wives and concubines (odalisques) in a Turkish Muslim household. 3 A brothel or place of debauchery. 4 An interior cage or enclosed courtyard for keeping wild beasts.


n. living quarters reserved for wives and concubines and female relatives in a Muslim household [syn: harem, hareem, serail]


A seraglio ( or ) or serail is the sequestered living quarters used by wives and concubines in an Ottoman household. The term harem refers to the women themselves, but has also come to be used to refer to these sequestered living quarters.

Usage examples of "seraglio".

I cast a hungry gaze on this young lady without more ado, just as if all the women in Europe were only a seraglio kept for my pleasures.

As those heretics were, for the most part, averse to the pleasures of sense, they morosely arraigned the polygamy of the patriarchs, the gallantries of David, and the seraglio of Solomon.

On the way he said that if I liked he could get me a perfect seraglio of pretty girls in a few days.

I fancied myself in the midst of a seraglio, and I amused myself by watching their meek and modest looks as they did their work under the direction of the foreman.

Throughout this week I made Possano and my brother take their meals with us, and as the latter did not understand a word the good lady said, he did not speak a word himself, and might have passed for a mute of the seraglio.

The Comte de Tot, brother of the baron, who lost all his money at the seraglio, and whom I had met again at the Hague, introduced me.

I asked him whether that were his seraglio, and he replied that it might be so, but that jealousy was unknown, as I should see for myself if I cared to spend a week with him.

The central chamber of the seraglio, if I may so call it, the largest and midmost of those in the rear of the garden, devoted as of course to the ladies of the household, was especially magnificent.

His sable complexion and thick lips declared him to be a moorman from across the seas, and his beardless chin further told at a glance that he was an attendant at the seraglio of some rich noble.

Huge carved wooden doors set in high walls marked the entrance to the seraglio guarded by the fierce Rohilla guards.

Moslem seraglios place the procreative burden on a few underproductive fathers.

But I think it was a woman named Zenaida, a concubine who haunts the deserted areas of the old seraglio, abandoned now even by the palace servants.

I cast a hungry gaze on this young lady without more ado, just as if all the women in Europe were only a seraglio kept for my pleasures.

When I got back to my small seraglio I supped merrily with the five nymphs, and spent a delicious night with Victoire, who was overjoyed at having made my conquest.

I told her that I was going to give up business, for she thought that my seraglio was the only obstacle to my marriage with her.