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

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Other Words from deserve

deserver noun

Synonyms for deserve


earn, merit, rate

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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

First, there is the issue of which calls deserve the video replay. Alejandro Chacoff, The Atlantic, "Soccer Has No Interest in Fairness," 12 July 2018 Surely, few people deserve a fabulous engagement ring more than Ashley Iaconetti, the Bachelor in Paradise alum who waited three long years for her happily-ever-after with Jared Haibon. Elizabeth Leonard,, "All About Bachelor in Paradise's Ashley Iaconetti's 'Flashy' Engagement Ring from Jared Haibon," 11 July 2018 These boys deserve to be really special people back in Belgium., "Kevin de Bruyne Sends Defiant Message to Rivals After Belgium Knock Out Brazil," 7 July 2018 This Fourth of July, Lady Liberty and her symbolic garb deserve our attention. Brooke Bobb, Vogue, "This Fourth of July, Let’s Remember the Symbolism of Freedom Behind Lady Liberty’s Green Robe," 4 July 2018 If what is alleged is true, the victims deserve a full investigation and justice. Jennifer Calfas, Time, "Congressman Denies He Knew About Alleged Sexual Abuse When He Was a Coach at Ohio State," 4 July 2018 The companies that can deliver in the field deserve all of the hype coming their way. Arif Janmohamed, Fortune, "Most ‘AI’ Companies Are Not AI Companies. Here’s How to Tell," 3 July 2018 His misdeeds, corruption and cruel policies deserve to be confronted and fought. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Donald Trump, the resistance, and the limits of normcore politics," 3 July 2018 No, Black women deserve to be front and center when everyone’s tuning in., "Why Are The BET Awards Shutting Out Women Performers?," 25 June 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.

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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

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Statistics for deserve

Last Updated

9 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for deserve

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

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More Definitions for deserve


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

Kids Definition of deserve

: to have earned because of some act or quality

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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 express warning or disapproval

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