Through the use of relations analogous to that of the Rayleigh law, it is demonstrated that the ac electric field dependence of the permittivity of ferroelectric thin films can be described. It is further shown that both reversible and irreversible components of the permittivity decrease linearly with the logarithm of the frequency of the ac field. The results demonstrate that the models describing the interaction of domain walls and randomly distributed pinning centers in magnetic materials can be extended to the displacement of domain walls in ferroelectric thin films. (C) 1997 American Institute of Physics.