\ ˈsərv How to pronounce serve (audio) \
served; serving

Definition of serve

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to be a servant
b : to do military or naval service
2 : to assist a celebrant as server at mass
3a : to be of use in a day when few people could write, seals served as signatures— Elizabeth 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

1a : 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 serve— Edmund Spenser
4a : to work through (a term of service)
b : to put in (a term of imprisonment)
5a : 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
6a : to furnish or supply with something needed or desired
b : to wait on (a customer) in a store
c : to furnish professional service to
7a : 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
9a : 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 one right
: to be deserved



Definition of serve (Entry 2 of 2)

: 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

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Synonyms for serve

Synonyms: Verb

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb First, understanding the customer use case and how and why synthetic data can serve as a superior alternative is key. Jason Schoettler, Forbes, "What Investors Need To Know About 'Fake' Data Companies," 10 May 2021 For many of the lower-income families whom Catholic schools serve, especially in urban areas, the cost became too much once the pandemic hit and the economy cratered. Ian Lovett, WSJ, "Catholic Schools Are Losing Students at Record Rates, and Hundreds Are Closing," 10 May 2021 Remove from the oven, sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve immediately. Tribune News Service, cleveland, "Celebrate spring with this seasonal menu," 10 May 2021 The Lark and Devil’s Acre also have parklets, which can serve alcohol without food requirements. Lauren Hernández, San Francisco Chronicle, "Bottoms up! S.F. bars reopen indoors at 25% capacity, no food required," 9 May 2021 Sara Starlin, a speech pathologist for Springfield Public Schools, said the district’s 15 pathologists collectively serve 700 students. oregonlive, "Oregon legislators are poised to mandate teacher union say on class size. Portland’s experience suggests it could undermine push for equity," 9 May 2021 Transfer to a serving platter, and top with dollops of the garlic labneh (about 1 cup) along with a few cloves of garlic confit, and serve warm or at room temperature. Washington Post, "Egyptian potato salad gets a modern twist from black lentils, buttery fingerlings and garlicky labneh," 9 May 2021 Also some students have reported logistical difficulties getting the vaccine in the community, such as figuring out which vaccine clinics serve people in their age group or how to get the necessary parental consent form, Babineau said. Kristen Taketa, San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Diego schools offer COVID vaccine clinics to get students, teenagers vaccinated," 8 May 2021 The bill would recognize that dropout recovery schools and open-enrollment charter schools with dropout-prevention programs now serve many 16-year-olds, Dutton explained. Alex Briseno, Dallas News, "Spat over transgender sports bill spills over as Texas House works first weekend of session," 8 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Residents would have to sign up ahead of the meeting to speak and would be heard on a first-come first-serve basis. Robert Higgs, cleveland, "Cleveland City Council agrees to allow public comment at meetings, must still draw up the rules," 10 May 2021 The bonuses will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. CBS News, "Montana ends extra jobless benefits as businesses struggle to find workers," 5 May 2021 Closed on Mondays to accommodate private bookings, Axe Factor offers walk-ins on a first-come, first-serve basis if lanes are available. Kathy Cichon,, "Indoor ax throwing takes off in the suburbs," 30 Apr. 2021 Meijer said pharmacies at each of its stores will have at least 100 doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for walk-ups on a first-come, first-serve basis. Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press, "Health officials, providers ramp up COVID-19 vaccination walk-up efforts," 29 Apr. 2021 The site will accept up to 200 patients per day Friday and Saturday on a first-come, first-serve basis. Brooks Johnson, Star Tribune, "Duluth has COVID-19 vaccines to spare; come and get them, hospitals urge," 22 Apr. 2021 Employees, working or furloughed, were notified by email about how to make appointments on a first-come, first-serve basis. Gabrielle Russon,, "Disney World opens a vaccine site for its employees," 7 Apr. 2021 No reservations were being taken and a limited staff was operating with guests seated on a first-come, first-serve basis. Cheryl V. Jackson, The Indianapolis Star, "Marion Co. Public Health Department says there was no COVID exposure to St. Elmo customers," 6 Apr. 2021 No appointment necessary and will operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. San Diego Union-Tribune, "National City opening two clinics to increase access to COVID-19 vaccine," 5 Apr. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'serve.' 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 serve


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


1688, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for serve


Middle English, from Anglo-French servir, from Latin servire to be a slave, serve, from servus slave, servant

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Time Traveler for serve

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for serve

Last Updated

12 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Serve.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for serve



English Language Learners Definition of serve

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to give (food or drink) to someone at a meal, in a restaurant, etc.
: to give food or drink to (someone)
: to be enough food for (a particular number of people)



English Language Learners Definition of serve (Entry 2 of 2)

sports : the act or action of throwing a ball into the air and hitting it over a net to start play in tennis, volleyball, etc.


\ ˈsərv How to pronounce serve (audio) \
served; serving

Kids Definition of serve

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to help people to food or drink or set out helpings of food or drink
2 : to be of use : answer some purpose The lawn serves as our sports facility.— Lemony Snicket, The Austere Academy
3 : to be a servant
4 : to give the service and respect due serve God
5 : to be in prison for or during (a period of time)
6 : to provide helpful services Our friendly staff will serve you.
7 : to be enough for The pie will serve eight people.
8 : to hold an office : perform a duty I served as club treasurer.
9 : to perform a term of service He served in the marines.
10 : to furnish with something needed or desired There is no grocery store to serve the area.
11 : to put the ball or shuttlecock in play (as in tennis, volleyball, or badminton)
serve someone right
: to be deserved You didn't study, so if you fail the test it will serve you right.



Kids Definition of serve (Entry 2 of 2)

: an act of putting the ball or shuttlecock in play (as in tennis, volleyball, or badminton)
served; serving

Legal Definition of serve

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 defect— Gene Mustain
3 : to put in (a term of imprisonment) has served five years of her sentence

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