serve

1 of 2

verb

served; serving

intransitive verb

1
a
: to be a servant
b
: to do military or naval service
2
: to assist a celebrant as server at mass
3
a
: to be of use
in a day when few people could write, seals served as signaturesElizabeth W. King
b
: to be favorable, opportune, or convenient
c
: to be worthy of reliance or trust
if memory serves
d
: to hold an office : discharge a duty or function
serve on a jury
4
: to prove adequate or satisfactory : suffice
it will serve for this task
5
: to help persons to food: such as
a
: to wait at table
b
: to set out portions of food or drink
6
: to wait on customers
7
: to put the ball or shuttlecock in play in various games (such as tennis, volleyball, or badminton)

transitive verb

1
a
: to be a servant to : attend
b
: to give the service and respect due to (a superior)
c
: to comply with the commands or demands of : gratify
d
: to give military or naval service to
e
: to perform the duties of (an office or post)
2
: to act as server at (mass)
3
archaic : to pay a lover's or suitor's court to (a lady)
that gentle lady, whom I love and serveEdmund Spenser
4
a
: to work through (a term of service)
b
: to put in (a term of imprisonment)
5
a
: to wait on at table
b
: to bring (food) to a diner
c
: present, provide
usually used with up
the novel served up many laughs
6
a
: to furnish or supply with something needed or desired
b
: to wait on (a customer) in a store
c
: to furnish professional service to
7
a
: to answer the needs of
b
: to be enough for : suffice
c
: to contribute or conduce to : promote
8
: to treat or act toward in a specified way
he served me ill
9
a
: to bring to notice, deliver, or execute as required by law
b
: to make legal service upon (a person named in a process)
10
of a male animal : to copulate with
11
: to wind yarn or wire tightly around (a rope or stay) for protection
12
: to provide services that benefit or help
13
: to put (the ball or shuttlecock) in play (as in tennis, volleyball, or badminton)

serve

2 of 2

noun

: the act or action of putting the ball or shuttlecock in play in various games (such as volleyball, badminton, or tennis)
also : a turn to serve
it's your serve
Phrases
serve one right
: to be deserved

Examples of serve in a Sentence

Verb Soup was served as the first course. The waiter served our meals quickly. The restaurant serves excellent Italian food. The waiter who served us was very nice. Feel free to serve yourself at the salad bar. You carve the turkey, and I'll serve. The roast should serve six. I'm afraid all of our salespeople are serving other customers right now. What can we do to serve our customers better? Noun She started the game with a powerful serve.
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
One of the schools losing funding, Oak View, serves only students in grades three through five. Nicole Asbury, Washington Post, 31 Mar. 2024 But Saturday served as a reminder that the Dodgers still have holes that can potentially cost them games. Jack Harris, Los Angeles Times, 31 Mar. 2024 That mofongo, studded with bits of smoky tempeh, is served atop a pool of pale coconut-cream sauce perfumed with curry. Helen Rosner, The New Yorker, 31 Mar. 2024 The Alabama correctional health contractor also serves the jail system in Pima County, Ariz. Officials there docked NaphCare more than $3 million for failing to meet a slew of terms and conditions in its contract with the region surrounding the city of Tucson, according to local news reports. Jeff McDonald, San Diego Union-Tribune, 31 Mar. 2024 The Aspen Lofts Apartments will serve individuals and families earning up to 60% of the area's median income. The Arizona Republic, 31 Mar. 2024 Meals were served in canteens or during a beach barbecue. Kathleen Wong, USA TODAY, 31 Mar. 2024 This problem of shortages of halfway house space is problematic because the First Step Act allows inmates to earn credits toward additional home confinement based on the time served. Walter Pavlo, Forbes, 30 Mar. 2024 Assemble the Cake: Place 1 cake layer on a serving platter, and spread with about 1/2 cup Strawberry-Lemonade Jam, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edges. Southern Living Test Kitchen, Southern Living, 30 Mar. 2024
Noun
On the skirt, the pattern depicts the shadow of a tennis player preparing for a serve—which this dress definitely was. Kathleen Walsh, Glamour, 26 Mar. 2024 One of the new additions is the Francese (tomatoes, mushrooms, prosciutto, Comte, Gruyere and Pili Pili oil); Also new to The Alley is the addition of soft serve ice cream and a walk-up window at which to order it. Connie Ogle, Miami Herald, 26 Mar. 2024 The Wolverines fought back to get to 24-22 but missed a serve on set point. Tim Meehan, San Diego Union-Tribune, 24 Mar. 2024 Hush puppies are an easy side to half-heartedly serve, but these were seasoned and had just the right amount of ... chive flavor? Victoria Moorwood, The Enquirer, 8 Mar. 2024 Cold Stone was founded in Tempe, Arizona, by a couple of ice cream lovers who craved fresh scoops that were neither hard pack nor soft serve. Linda Zavoral, The Mercury News, 6 Mar. 2024 The 18-year-old is making a name for himself with his aggressive play and big serve. Tim Ellis, Forbes, 28 Feb. 2024 The Falcons lost most of their firepower to graduation, but Reyes’ jump serve and versatility will keep them in most matches. San Diego Union-Tribune, 9 Feb. 2024 The re-inspection went fine until the inspector saw two dead roaches, a live roach on single serve trays at the front counter and three live roaches on the front counter floor. David J. Neal, Miami Herald, 7 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'serve.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Verb

Middle English serven, sarven "to perform a duty, be employed, assume the role of personal attendant, be of use (of a body part), perform religious rites, provide food and drink (to people at a table), deliver (a legal writ)," borrowed from Anglo-French & Medieval Latin; Anglo-French servir, borrowed from Medieval Latin serviō, servīre, going back to Latin, "to perform duties for (a master) in the capacity of a slave, act in subservience, be at the service of," verbal derivative of servus "slave," perhaps, if the original sense was "watcher (of flocks), guardian," derivative with the nominal suffix *-u̯o-, of the Indo-European verbal base *ser- "keep watch on, guard," whence, with varying ablaut and derivation, Greek (Homeric) epì…órontai "they kept watch over," Greek éphoros "watcher, overseer," phrourós "guard, watchman" (< *pro-horós), phrourā́ "guard duty," Avestan nišhauruuaiti "(s/he) keeps watch on" (from a stem *har-u̯a-), pasuš.hauruua "guarding the flock (of a dog)," harətar- "watcher, guardian"

Note: The above etymology of Latin servus "slave" is carefully argued by Helmut Rix (Die Termini der Unfreiheit in den Sprachen Alt-Italiens, Stuttgart, 1994, pp. 54-88), who rejects claims that the word is of Etruscan origin. Rix hypothesizes that between about 700 b.c. and 450 b.c., as most transhumant shepherds in the Italian peninsula came to be slaves, an agent noun meaning "flock guard" developed a secondary sense "slave," and by the time of the earliest Latin texts had largely lost its original meaning (with pāstor becoming the usual word for a shepherd—see pastor entry 1). The presumption is that Italic languages—as Indo-European languages generally—lacked a word for "slave," as slavery was an institution endemic to older Mediterranean and Middle Eastern civilizations. Note that Umbrian has a verb exemplified by the imperative seritu "(let him/her) protect!" that corresponds in form but not in sense to Latin servīre, which had been repurposed to reflect the new meaning of the noun *seru̯os. Rix hypothesizes that the Latin verb servāre "to watch over, look after" originally meant exclusively "to watch (the skies for an omen)," as a derivative of a noun *seru̯ā or *seru̯om "observation (of the skies)," and suggests that its senses expanded to cover those formerly held by the repurposed verb servīre.

Noun

derivative of serve entry 1

First Known Use

Verb

13th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a

Noun

1688, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of serve was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near serve

Cite this Entry

“Serve.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/serve. Accessed 13 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

serve

1 of 2 verb
served; serving
1
a
: to be a servant
b
: to give the service and respect due
c
: to work through or perform a term of service
served five years in the marines
d
: to be in prison for or during
served a 10-year sentence
2
a
: to act officially as a clergyman or priest
serve mass
b
: to assist as server at mass
3
a
: to be of use : answer a purpose
the tree serves as shelter
b
: to be favorable or convenient
when the time serves
c
: to hold an office : perform a duty
serve on a jury
4
: to be enough for
a pie that will serve eight people
5
a
: to help persons to food (as at a table or counter)
b
: to set out portions of food or drink
6
a
: to furnish or supply with something needed or desired
b
: to wait on customers
7
: to treat or act toward in a certain way
they served me ill
8
: to bring to notice, deliver, or carry out as required by law
serve a summons
9
: to make a serve (as in tennis)

serve

2 of 2 noun
: the act of putting the ball or shuttlecock in play (as in tennis or badminton)

Legal Definition

serve

transitive verb
served; serving
1
: to deliver, publish, or execute (notice or process) as required by law
no notice of any such request was ever served on the husbandNational Law Journal
2
: to make legal service upon (the person named in a process) : inform or notify by legal service
unless the city had been served with prior notice of a defectGene Mustain
3
: to put in (a term of imprisonment)
has served five years of her sentence

More from Merriam-Webster on serve

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