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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from deserve

deserver noun

Synonyms for deserve


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of deserve in a Sentence

the team really deserved that victory after the way they played
Recent Examples on the Web As bills pile up, residents deserve additional relief., "Should Massachusetts require auto insurers to refund premiums with people driving less during the pandemic?," 1 Apr. 2021 All of us deserve the same access, freedoms, and opportunities. Christi Carras, Los Angeles Times, "Hollywood luminaries sign letter supporting trans women on Trans Day of Visibilility," 31 Mar. 2021 The players and fans — to say nothing of the Uyghur people — deserve better. Nury Turkel, National Review, "NCAA Basketball Teams Should Take a Stand against Uyghur Genocide," 30 Mar. 2021 Children deserve to be kept safe—both in clinical trials and the real world, where they may be exposed to the disease. Melinda Wenner Moyer, Scientific American, "When Will Kids Get COVID Vaccines?," 30 Mar. 2021 People with substance use disorders deserve access to a full continuum of quality care — just like those with heart disease or diabetes or any other health condition. Marvin D. Seppala, STAT, "Money from opioid lawsuits is urgently needed now," 30 Mar. 2021 Crucial decision-making elements — seeing the field, reading defenses, throwing with accuracy, anticipating developments — deserve a long period of evaluation. Nathan Baird, cleveland, "Why Ohio State football coach Ryan Day needs more than a spring to pick his next quarterback," 29 Mar. 2021 My assistant coaches deserve a ton of credit for this. James Crepea | The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, "What Andy Enfield, Isaiah White said after USC beat Oregon in the Sweet 16," 28 Mar. 2021 Even with the trial judge acquitting the men, the Shepards deserve justice, Nwachukwu said, and her team will seek it in civil court. Eliott C. Mclaughlin, CNN, "Armed White men who showed up at a Black family's home were acquitted. Now, they want an apology," 27 Mar. 2021

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

Time Traveler for deserve

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for deserve

Last Updated

5 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Deserve.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Apr. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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

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.

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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