de·​serve | \ di-ˈzərv How to pronounce deserve (audio) \
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

Clowney deserves a long-term deal with financial security — the least the Texans can do is label him a defensive end and give him the deserved pay bump. Henry Mckenna, For The Win, "Why Jadeveon Clowney, Texans may battle over $1.7 million," 16 July 2019 The soaring crescendos of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber are once again prominent, matched by the haunting lyrics of Charles Hart which play second fiddle but deserve equal attention. Tom Titus, Daily Pilot, "Review:: On Theater: ‘Phantom’ resurrected with a vengeance at Segerstrom," 15 July 2019 And then most of the players will return to duty with their professional clubs in the National Women’s Soccer League for more well-deserved adulation. Mark Goodman, The Denver Post, "Backpass: Is there a path to pro women’s soccer in Colorado?," 12 July 2019 While series fans were surely clamoring for a little more IndyCar in their lives these past few weeks, for some teams, the break was not only much-deserved but much-needed. Jim Ayello, Indianapolis Star, "‘Recharged’ Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud paces first day of practice in Toronto," 12 July 2019 With so many great shows across network television getting the boot (friendly reminder that The Good Place and Star deserved better!), fans of Good Girls were worried that the hit series wouldn't be returning to their screens. Ineye Komonibo, Marie Claire, "'Good Girls' Is Returning for an Explosive Third Season," 10 July 2019 The money raised gives us the ability to expand our critical services and programs, including job placement and training services, career advancement, one-on-one case coordination and more, to deserving veterans and their families – all at no cost. Coast Magazine, Orange County Register, "Golfers deliver for Goodwill of Orange County’s veterans event," 8 July 2019 In some cases, the courts have already decided the child does not deserve detention, or has already served it. Mary Jo Pitzl, Arizona Republic, "Department of Child Safety doesn't want to house youth who have committed crimes. New law gives time to find alternatives," 27 June 2019 His son-in-law deserves some credit for bringing the White House on board with the First Step Act last year, giving a modest boost to criminal-justice reform. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "The Kids Aren’t Alright," 3 July 2019

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

20 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for deserve

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

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More Definitions for deserve



English Language Learners Definition of deserve

used to say that someone or something should or should not have or be given something often followed by to + verb


de·​serve | \ di-ˈzərv How to pronounce deserve (audio) \
deserved; deserving

Kids Definition of deserve

: to have earned because of some act or quality

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More from Merriam-Webster on deserve

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with deserve

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for deserve

Spanish Central: Translation of deserve

Nglish: Translation of deserve for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of deserve for Arabic Speakers

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 complain fretfully

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