\ 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 Emergency management has purchased and programmed radios to match the same make and model used in each school that serves as a shelter and has made enough of the radios available for each staff member on shift, Blakeney said. Brooke Baitinger,, "Employees felt forced to work in shelters during Hurricane Dorian, no matter the circumstances," 8 Nov. 2019 In Minneapolis, a 15-year-old program that serves about 70% of the city’s public schools, has helped Minnesota rank among the best states in terms of offering students mental health support. oregonlive, "Parents, teachers want Portland schools to boost social emotional supports with new state cash," 7 Nov. 2019 The sources stressed the ability of Taylor and Vindman give a firsthand accounts of their understanding that aid to Ukraine was tied to the country's revival of investigations that would serve the president's personal political interests. NBC News, "Democrats zero in on three witnesses for public hearings," 7 Nov. 2019 After each of their performances, the second batch of costumed singers also brought out a physical item from home that served as an additional clue. Natalie Stone,, "Wayne Brady Addresses Whether or Not He's the Thingamajig on The Masked Singer," 7 Nov. 2019 Trinity Episcopal Church, lat 7474 Washington Blvd., also operates a Thrift Store on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is housed in the building directly behind the church that once served as a rectory. Susan Harrison,, "Hair Station owner cuts back but is still styling; last day for Food Truck Fridays in Elkridge this week," 7 Nov. 2019 There are places in town that offer women-only hours, like the Re:Center, and there are facilities that serve women with specific needs. Maggie Menderski, The Courier-Journal, "'One time of day they're not harassed': Step inside the Louisville women’s day shelter," 7 Nov. 2019 The two groups — a charity that primarily serves Christian Iraqis and a Catholic university — were not originally listed as front-runners, according to a document seen by ProPublica. Yeganeh Torbati, ProPublica, "How Mike Pence’s Office Meddled in Foreign Aid to Reroute Money to Favored Christian Groups," 6 Nov. 2019 Instead of the opening vignettes in McG’s 2000 version that served as biographies for Natalie , Dylan, and Alex (played by Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu, respectively), the entire film is an origin story. Seija Rankin,, "Who Run the World? Inside the first female-led installment of the Charlie’s Angels franchise," 6 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The closest thing to ice cream is fancy soft-serve, which is not far off. Josie Sexton, The Denver Post, "Denver’s latest dining destination is catering to shoppers in a high-end downtown retail space," 14 Oct. 2019 Combine the Italian Ice with one of the soft-serve flavors for a Gelati., "2019 Orlando Sentinel Best Bets: Dining & Restaurants winners," 5 Oct. 2019 The dessert is a delightful whirl of DQ's vanilla soft serve with pieces of pumpkin pie, whipped cream, and a dusting of nutmeg. Perri Ormont Blumberg, Southern Living, "Coming Soon to a Dairy Queen Near You: Pumpkin Pie Blizzard Returns!," 16 Aug. 2019 Carvel: Buy one soft-serve ice cream cup or cone and get a second cup or cone free Sunday. Kelly Tyko, USA TODAY, "National Ice Cream Day brings free ice cream, deals and contests Sunday," 19 July 2019 Their offerings range from $1 soft serve cones to the $12 Bold Face cone. Noelle Zielinski,, "10 ice creams you've gotta try in Cincinnati this summer," 1 July 2019 As the largest coffee roaster in Ohio, the company manufactures individual-serve cups of coffee grounds, which Vocational Guidance Services package for wholesale distribution. Shirley Macfarland,, "Caruso’s Coffee honored for providing work for people with disabilities: Talk of the Towns," 28 June 2019 Yes, the creamy, sweet, pineapple soft-serve was so popular, the line to get one rivaled the line for the Jungle Cruise. Marisa Lascala, Good Housekeeping, "Dole Is Releasing a New Smoothie Bowl That Tastes Just Like Dole Whip," 19 Apr. 2019 An early break of Nadal's serve would help as well. The Si Staff,, "U.S. Open Men's Semifinals: Picks, Previews for Medvedev-Dimitrov and Nadal-Berrettini," 5 Sep. 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.

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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 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Serve.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 21 November 2019.

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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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