serve

verb
\ 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

serve

noun

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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for serve

Synonyms: Verb

slave (for), work (for)

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

As a political operative, Castañeda served as campaign manager for former Democratic Congressman Ciro Rodriguez. Gilbert Garcia, ExpressNews.com, "South Side activist led the charge against Harlandale superintendent," 6 July 2019 The stainless steel exterior of what looks like a vintage Airstream trailer serves as the entrance to a bedroom decorated with a pink leather riding saddle, colorful satin award ribbons and walls of Polaroid snapshots. Bonnie Mccarthy, latimes.com, "We went behind the scenes of the new ‘Big Brother’ house in Studio City," 6 July 2019 Members serve two-year terms, for no more than two consecutive terms. San Diego Union-Tribune, "DAR members march in parade," 6 July 2019 Mr Gandhi’s father, grandmother and great-grandfather all served as prime minister. The Economist, "Politics this week," 6 July 2019 The reality star ultimately served 17 months in jail for the incident. Ale Russian, PEOPLE.com, "Teen Mom OG Star Amber Portwood Charged with Domestic Battery," 5 July 2019 The winger mainly served as a substitute during the tournament and scored the last dagger against Peru in the commanding victory. Luis Miguel Echegaray, SI.com, "Brazil Already Thrashed Peru Once; Will Copa America Final Be Any Different?," 5 July 2019 Niedermeyer previously served as an assistant principal in Brunswick. Rich Heileman, cleveland.com, "Berea ARF to break ground for new shelter: Around The Town," 5 July 2019 Yet this new class of intellectuals serves for many as the new gatekeeper to the Right. Nate Hochman, National Review, "The Intellectual Dark Web’s Quiet Revolution," 5 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Almost every bad serve sends one of them scurrying somewhere. Washington Post, "Wimbledon’s ballgirls and ballboys get their own kind of tennis workout," 6 July 2019 Williams' famed serve was working, delivering seven aces. Ravi Ubha, CNN, "Serena Williams, Andy Murray win Wimbledon mixed doubles opener," 6 July 2019 Sam Querrey of Thousand Oaks, a semifinalist two years ago, is the only player remaining in the men's draw whose serve hasn't been broken. Sam Farmer, latimes.com, "Wimbledon notes: Steve Johnson faces a big test in Kei Nishikori," 5 July 2019 Any of its five soft serve flavors, from traditional chocolate or vanilla to honey lavender or vegan strawberry coconut, can be made into a milkshake. oregonlive.com, "No concrete in these milkshakes. Portland protests highlight American classic, so here are some options for non-weaponized treats," 4 July 2019 Kyrgios had 29 aces, one of them with an underarm serve in the first set that caught Nadal by surprise. Christopher Clarey, New York Times, "Rafael Nadal Doesn’t Fall for Nick Kyrgios’s Bag of Tricks," 4 July 2019 Ailes, an Ohio native, began his television career in the early 1960s as a producer at The Mike Douglas Show in Cleveland, and went onto serve as media consultant for several Republican presidents, including Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Bill Keveney, USA TODAY, "Showtime's Fox News series launches with 10 major Roger Ailes talking points," 1 July 2019 As for the food, an addition to the menu is soft serve, which Farr said is an ode to the small barbecue spots of yesteryear where kids could eat ice cream while waiting on their parents’ order. SFChronicle.com, "At long last, 4505 Burgers & BBQ opens Oakland restaurant," 28 June 2019 The popup for the famed Manhattan sweets shop will serve desserts like cereal milk soft serve with corn flake crunch, compost cookies and the famous Milk Bar pie, Eater reported. Grace Wong, chicagotribune.com, "Dirty Root brings customizable, nutrient-dense bowls to West Loop, plus more restaurant news," 21 June 2019

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.

See More

First Known Use of serve

Verb

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

Noun

1688, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for serve

Verb

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about serve

Statistics for serve

Last Updated

9 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for serve

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for serve

serve

verb

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)

serve

noun

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.

serve

verb
\ 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.

serve

noun

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on serve

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with serve

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for serve

Spanish Central: Translation of serve

Nglish: Translation of serve for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of serve for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about serve

Comments on serve

What made you want to look up serve? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to complain fretfully

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Citation

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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