SERAI to SERANG
SERAI, SERYE, s. This word is used to represent two Oriental words entirely different.
a. Hind. from
Pers. sara, sarai, This means originally an edifice, a palace. It was especially used by the Tartars
when they began to build palaces. Hence Sarai, the name of more than one royal residence of the
Mongol Khans upon the Volga, the Sarra of Chaucer. The Russians retained the word from their Tartar
oppressors, but in their language sarai has been degraded to mean a shed. The word, as applied to
the Palace of the Grand Turk, became, in the language of the Levantine Franks, serail and serraglio.
In this form, as P. della Valle lucidly explains below, the striving after meaning connected the word
with Ital. serrato, shut up; and with a word serraglio perhaps previously existing in Italian in that connection.
[Seraglio, according to Prof. Skeat (Concise Dict. s.v.) is formed with suffix-aglio (L. -aculum), from
Late Lat. serare, to bar, shut in Lat. sera, a bar, bolt; Lat. serere, to join together.] It-is this
association that has attached the meaning of womens apartments to the word. Sarai has no such
But the usual modern meaning in Persia, and the only one in India, is that of a building
for the accommodation of travellers with their pack-animals; consisting of an enclosed yard with chambers
Recurring to the Italian use, we have seen in Italy the advertisement of a travelling menagerie
as Serraglio di Belve. A friend tells us of an old Scotchman whose ideas must have run in this groove,
for he used to talk of a Serragle of blackguards. In the Diary in England of Annibale Litolfi of Mantua
the writer says: On entering the tower there is a Serraglio in which, from grandeur, they keep lions and
tigers and cat-lions. (See Rawdon Browns Calendar of Papers in Archives of Venice, vol. vi. pt. iii.
15578. App.) [The Stanf. Diet. quotes Evelyn as using the word of a place where persons are confined: 1644.
I passed by the Piazza Judea, where their seraglio begins (Diary, ed. 1872, i. 142).]
c. 1584.At Saraium Turcis palatium principis est, vel aliud amplum aedificium, non a Czar1 voce
Tatarica, quae regem significat, dictum; vnde Reineccius Saragliam Turcis vocari putet, ut regiam.
Nam aliae quoque domus, extra Sultani regiam, nomen hoc ferunt
vt ampla Turcorum hospitia, sive
diversoria publica, quae vulgo Caravasarias (Caravanseray) nostri vocant. Leunclavius, ed. 1650,
p. 403.b. A long-necked earthenware (or metal)
by it the great Suray, besides which are diuers others, both in the city and suburbs,
wherein diuers neate lodgings are to be let, with doores, lockes, and keys to each.W. Finch, in Purchas,
1614.This term serraglio, so much used among us in speaking of the Grand Turks dwelling
has been corrupted into that form from the word serai, which in their language signifies properly a
But since this word serai resembles serraio, as a Venetian would call it, or seraglio as we
say, and seeing that the palace of the Turk is (serrato or) shut up all round by a strong wall, and also
because the women and a great part of the courtiers dwell in it barred up and shut in, so it may perchance
have seemed to some to have deserved such a name. And thus the real term serai has been converted
into serraglio.P. della Valle, i. 36.
1615.Onely from one dayes Journey to another the Sophie
hath caused to bee erected certaine kind of great harbours, or huge lodgings (like hamlets) called caravan-
sara, or surroyes, for the benefite of Caravanes.
De Montfart, 8.
1616.In this kingdome there are
no Innes to entertaine strangers, only in great Townes and Cities are faire Houses built for their receit,
which they call Sarray, not inhabited, where any Passenger may haue roome freely, but must bring
with him his Bedding, his Cooke, and other necessaries. Terry, in Purchas, ii. 1475.
being done we departed from our Serray (or Inne).W. Bruton, in Hakl. v. 49.
1648.A great sary
or place for housing travelling folk.Van Twist, 17.
one of the Sciddees (seedy) officers with
a party of men were lodged in the Sorroy.
Forrest, Bombay Letters, i. 307.]
tenants of the Serauee, many of them women, and some of them very pretty, approach the traveller on
his entrance, and in alluring language describe to him the varied excellencies of their several lodgings.Forster,
Journey, ed. 1808, i. 86.
1825.The whole number of lodgers in and about the serai, probably
did not fall short of 500 persons. What an admirable scene for an Eastern romance would such an inn
as this afford!Heber, ed. 1844, ii. 122.
1850.He will find that, if we omit only three names in the
long line of the Delhi Emperors, the comfort and happiness of the people were never contemplated by
them; and with the exception of a few saráís and bridges,and these only on roads traversed by the
imperial campshe will see nothing in which purely selfish considerations did not prevail.Sir H. M.
Elliot, Original Preface to Historians of India, Elliot, I. xxiii.