\ 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 upthe 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 Making matters worse, after serving her 15-month sentence, Sharapova only managed to win one, lower-rank title. Lz Granderson, Los Angeles Times, "Column: Maria Sharapova’s PED suspension should keep her out of the Hall of Fame," 28 Feb. 2020 Home to America’s first nuclear power plant, INL has served as the proving grounds for the future of nuclear energy technology for decades. Daniel Oberhaus, Wired, "Recycled Nuclear Waste Will Power a New Reactor," 27 Feb. 2020 McCain served more than five years in a prisoner-of-war camp during the Vietnam War. Chris Lamb, The Conversation, "Calling someone a ‘jackass’ is a tradition in US politics," 27 Feb. 2020 Sent to death row at age 18 as the alleged gunman, Jackson was released at age 57 in 2014 after wrongly serving 39 years, three months and nine days in prison. Randy Ludlow,, "Can Ohio end wrongful convictions that sent 83 to prison over past 30 years?," 25 Feb. 2020 Khangoshvili was an ethnic Chechen from Georgia who had served as the commander of a rebel unit during the anti-Moscow insurgency in Chechnya at the turn of the century. Christian Caryl, The New York Review of Books, "A History of Assassinations," 25 Feb. 2020 After serving as an armed CBP officer, he was promoted to its Advanced Targeting Team. Nick Givas, Fox News, "Philip Haney, DHS whistleblower, found dead, police say," 23 Feb. 2020 There have been five justice ministers in the past five years, and ten housing ministers in the past decade (Esther McVey, the ninth, was sacked last week after serving six months). The Economist, "Reshuffle revisited British ministers come and go almost as often as football managers," 22 Feb. 2020 Last year, Versace served up some grungy, textured hair juxtaposed with smoky eyes. Audrey Noble, Allure, "The Best Hair and Makeup Looks From Milan Fashion Week," 21 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Marison served six straight points, without the Cougars returning one serve. Randy Mcroberts,, "Three Harford girls volleyball teams to play for region titles," 5 Nov. 2019 The crucial break of serve in the first set came in the second game, with Murray saving two break points but not a third, and his Swiss opponent served it out 6-3. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Andy Murray wins 1st ATP final since hip surgery," 20 Oct. 2019 Condiments should be provided only on request and in single-serve packets; glasses, silverware and condiments should not be left on tables; disposable menus should be offered; and if there’s a buffet line, employees should serve the food. Chuck Lindell, USA TODAY, "As coronavirus cases rise, Texas businesses reopen. Here's what you need to know," 1 May 2020 The minimalist direction and subtle scoring serve to center Cyntoia’s own words and those of both her adoptive mother and biological mother in interviews. Bilal Qureshi, New York Times, "‘Murder to Mercy’ Review: Rethinking a Life Sentence," 29 Apr. 2020 Since it was introduced to the Walt Disney World and Disneyland resorts in 1986, the pineapple soft serve has achieved a beloved status among the rankings of other cult-favorites like Mickey pretzels and churros. Elizabeth Rhodes, Travel + Leisure, "Recreate the Famous Disney Dole Whip at Home With Just 3 Ingredients," 15 Apr. 2020 The money will be allotted based on a facility’s share of the 2019 Medicare fee-for-serve (FFS) reimbursements. al, "Alabama healthcare providers getting $449.5 million in early federal relief," 10 Apr. 2020 And whenever Above Ground can fully open its doors, Tucker plans to expand the food options, including housemade soft serve with various toppings. Janelle Bitker,, "San Francisco gets a vegan brewpub with Above Ground," 27 Apr. 2020 As our all-time favorite single-serve coffee maker, this super sleek kitchen gadget is worth every penny. Melissa Lee, USA TODAY, "The 5 best coffee maker deals you can get right now," 20 Apr. 2020

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

Cite this Entry

“Serve.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for serve


How to pronounce serve (audio)

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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More from Merriam-Webster on serve

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for serve

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with serve

Spanish Central: Translation of serve

Nglish: Translation of serve for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of serve for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about serve

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