de·serve | \ di-ˈzərv \
deserved; deserving

Definition of deserve 

transitive verb

: to be worthy of : merit deserves another chance

intransitive verb

: to be worthy, fit, or suitable for some reward or requital … have become recognized as they deserve. —T. S. Eliot a worse punishment than he deserved

Keep scrolling for more

Other words from deserve

deserver noun

Synonyms for deserve


earn, merit, rate

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for deserve

deserve, merit, and earn mean to be worthy of something. deserve is used when a person should rightly receive something good or bad because of his or her actions or character. A hard worker deserves to be rewarded. merit is used when someone or something is especially worthy of reward, punishment, or consideration. These students merit special praise. earn is used when a person has spent time and effort and gets what he or she deserves. You've earned a long vacation.

Examples of deserve in a Sentence

the team really deserved that victory after the way they played

Recent Examples on the Web

The reporter had argued that CNN deserved to get a question because the president had criticized the network in response to a previous question from NBC News Kristen Welker reporter. Jeremy Barr, The Hollywood Reporter, "Trump in U.K.: "I Don't Take Questions From CNN"," 13 July 2018 Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic was adamant that his side fully deserved their 2-1 win over England in Wednesday's FIFA World Cup semi-final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow., "'We Nullified Them': Croatia Head Coach Hails Semi-Final Victory Over England as 'Our Best Game'," 12 July 2018 Lane and Lewis both agree that the rescuers in Thailand deserve enormous praise. Bo Emerson, ajc, "Cave rescuers in Southeast watch their Thai colleagues with admiration," 10 July 2018 For now, Republican challengers in a handful of heartland states argue that President Trump deserves room to negotiate in his bid to yield better deals for American businesses and consumers alike. Tory Newmyer, Washington Post, "The Finance 202: Republican candidates in key Senate races struggle with Trump tariffs," 5 July 2018 The judge also wrote that Piercy deserved a new hearing to reconsider Karsten's decision to withhold his pay and benefits. Laura Bauer And Max Londberg, kansascity, "Trooper in Lake of the Ozarks drowning death should not have been fired, judge rules," 27 June 2018 She was widely known as someone who deserved clemency. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "How a Former Glamour College Woman of the Year Helped Break the Alice Johnson Story," 13 July 2018 Ellen’s preferred form of creative expression is witchcraft, a practice that certainly deserves a measure of suspicion. Katherine Fusco, The Atlantic, "Hereditary and the Monstrousness of Creative Moms," 11 July 2018 In the first episode alone, the show portrayed or alluded to substance abuse, addiction, self-harm, emotional abuse, illness, depression, trauma, murder, and death—all topics that deserve to be treated sensitively. Emily Wang, SELF, "Every Episode of HBO's 'Sharp Objects' Will End With a PSA About Substance Abuse and Self-Harm," 11 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'deserve.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of deserve

13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for deserve

Middle English, from Anglo-French deservir, from Latin deservire to devote oneself to, from de- + servire to serve

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about deserve

Phrases Related to deserve

deserve a medal

one good turn deserves another

Statistics for deserve

Last Updated

14 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for deserve

The first known use of deserve was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for deserve


de·serve | \ di-ˈzərv \
deserved; deserving

Kids Definition of deserve

: to have earned because of some act or quality

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on deserve

What made you want to look up deserve? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to deposit or conceal in a hiding place

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!