\ 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

slave (for), work (for)

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Examples of serve in a Sentence


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?


She started the game with a powerful serve.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

LaFleur could not have served on FERC and the ISO board at the same time., "Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building," 17 Sep. 2019 The council, in its court filing Friday, argues that the Zoghby Act limits the appropriation of funds to pay for non-merit employees serving at the mayor’s pleasure to exactly $100,000 – no more, no less. al, "Mobile’s ongoing legal woes threaten timely budget vote," 17 Sep. 2019 Owens serves on the boards of TechPoint Indiana, Indy Chamber, the Orr Fellowship and previously chaired the Indiana Charter School Board, according to a news release. Chris Sikich, Indianapolis Star, "Businessman Josh Owens files to seek Democratic nomination for governor," 16 Sep. 2019 The program is free and complimentary refreshments will be served following the presentation., "Community News For The Putnam-Killingly Edition," 16 Sep. 2019 Plaid claims 80% of major fintech firms—including the likes of Venmo, Robinhood, Chime, and Betterment—rely on its APIs to connect with customers’ bank accounts, and says one in four Americans with bank accounts are served by its platform. Rey Mashayekhi, Fortune, "Visa and Mastercard Sign Up for Investments in Fintech Unicorn Plaid," 16 Sep. 2019 The charcuteries are served on a wooden board and often embellished with lard, cold cuts of roast pork, and horseradish. Danielle Bernabe, National Geographic, "Eat, drink, and herd cattle at this Austrian festival," 15 Sep. 2019 Following releaguing, Laguna Beach shared the Wave League title with Newport Harbor last season after the Sailors were able to pull off the upset in holding serve on their home court. Andrew Turner, Daily Pilot, "High School Female Athlete of the Week: Piper Naess powers Laguna Beach volleyball up the CIF poll," 13 Sep. 2019 Alcohol isn't served either, but no one would blame you for sneaking down to the restaurant, Old Yellowstone Garage, for a drink or two. Leena Kim, Town & Country, "The World's Hardest Ski Destination Has a New Wellness Retreat," 13 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Dictate points with the serve and don't get frustrated when Andreesccu tries to pump herself and the crowd up. The Si Staff,, "Serena Williams vs. Bianca Andreescu: Keys to the Match, Predictions for U.S. Open Final," 6 Sep. 2019 Receiving the serve on match point, Komatineni ripped a forehand sizzler that left Lofgren flat-footed to win the set 7-6 on the tiebreak and taking the match win. Luke Feliciano,, "In his first-ever appearance, Niraj Komatineni wins 2019 Cincinnati Met singles tournament," 24 July 2019 Williams -- who led the event in aces and had hit the fastest serve so far -- didn't hit an ace until set two. Ravi Ubha, CNN, "Flawless Simona Halep beats Serena Williams to win first Wimbledon," 13 July 2019 One theory is that the extra DNA serve as backup copies. Quanta Magazine, "I Contain Multitudes," 21 Aug. 2014 Dessert includes soft-serve ice cream in fun flavor combinations (chocolate-cherry swirled into a spire with banana ice cream on my visit). Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, "In Richmond, two new enchanting reasons to drive and dine," 4 Sep. 2019 What to order: O.G. Bear pizza, burrata pizza, Cappelletti Spritz, fritto misto, kale salad, soft-serve ice cream. Soleil Ho,, "Flour + Water Pizzeria, the home of the $8 slice and much, much more," 29 Aug. 2019 At the end of the meal, each diner gets a free soft-serve ice cream cone. Naomi Tomky, Fortune, "High-End Hot Pot Heats Up in the U.S.," 11 Aug. 2019 Nicchi opened the bare bones ice cream truck in 2014 to sell just chocolate, vanilla or twist soft-serve ice cream out of a vintage Mr Softee. Melissa Locker, Time, "Social Media Influencers Have to Pay Double at This Soft Serve Truck Because the Ice Cream Man Has Reached His Melting Point," 3 July 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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Statistics for serve

Last Updated

15 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for serve

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

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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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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 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).


involving a confidence or trust

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