\ 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 When the mayor declared in late May that Le Diplomate could serve diners again, first at tables six feet apart outside and then, in June, at a reduced capacity inside, the to-go burger orders kept coming. Jessica Contrera, Washington Post, "The lives upended around a $20 cheeseburger," 7 July 2020 Phoenix police, who serve a city with 1.6 million residents, had an average of 17 shootings per every 1 million residents in the eight-year span — more than New York, Los Angeles, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and San Diego. Uriel J. Garcia, The Arizona Republic, "Phoenix police chief asks FBI to review fatal shooting of James Garcia, vows to release video soon," 7 July 2020 The township board is composed of seven members, all of whom serve two-year terms. Jeff Forward, Houston Chronicle, "Candidate filing period nears; 4 Woodlands board seats up for election," 7 July 2020 Tim Becker, public information officer for the mayor’s office, will serve as interim communications director until her permanent replacement is hired, Park said. oregonlive, "Portland mayor’s communications director leaving City Hall for Canada," 7 July 2020 Brendan McPhillips, who will serve as the state director, previously worked as the Iowa state director for Pete Buttigieg, the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor who won the Iowa caucuses earlier this year. Joseph Simonson, Washington Examiner, "Biden beefs up Pennsylvania team in key Electoral College state," 7 July 2020 Cherry created Young Love and will serve as showrunner with Carl Jones (The Boondocks). Nick Romano,, "Oscar-winning Hair Love short film will get a TV spin-off for HBO Max," 7 July 2020 Neighboring Broward County restricted the times that restaurants can serve food and alcohol. Jason Silverstein, CBS News, "Florida says all schools must reopen in August despite surging coronavirus cases," 7 July 2020 In Finland, where just 7,000 police officers serve the same number of people as do 17,000 officers in Scotland, public sector agencies are especially integrated and collaborative, says Dr. O’Neill. Lenora Chu, The Christian Science Monitor, "Defund the police? Europeans redirect them.," 6 July 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Frozen custard is like a thick soft serve; extra egg yolks add body and a rich, velvety texture. Casey Barber, Better Homes & Gardens, "Road Trip Eats: Recipes Inspired By Route 66," 26 June 2020 Soft serve can be ready in under 30 minutes, a great and quick summer-ready feature. NBC News, "Why the KitchenAid Artisan Series Stand Mixer is my last mixer," 24 June 2020 Restaurants opening their indoor dining areas must space tables at least 6 feet apart, but bars, unattended buffets and self-serve drink stations will remain closed for now. USA TODAY, "Tattoos, masks, telemedicine, Yellowstone: News from around our 50 states," 23 June 2020 The boxes, which are first-come, first-serve, will be available to families through July, the district said. Mandy Mclaren, The Courier-Journal, "JCPS adds fresh produce boxes to family meal distribution sites," 18 June 2020 Like its Cuisinart siblings above, this machine makes good coffee, but the single-serve brewer does make the whole of the hardware more cumbersome. Elizabeth Wallace, CNN Underscored, "The best drip coffee makers of 2020," 12 June 2020 Specifically, rural hospitals that are more financially secure serve communities that are overwhelmingly white, with populations that are only 0.9% Black, and 8.1% overall non-white. Annalisa Merelli, Quartz, "When rural hospitals close, minorities pay the biggest price," 10 June 2020 The average price of a gallon of self-serve, regular jumped 6 cents in the past week to $2.01, AAA Northeast reported Monday., "Prices at the pump start to rise as people return to work," 9 June 2020 However, our favorite single-serve pod model, the Nespresso VertuoPlus, is on sale for more than $100 off right now on Amazon through today, June 8, only. Melissa Lee, USA TODAY, "You can get our all-time favorite pod coffee maker at an unbelievable price," 8 June 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

Last Updated

10 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Serve.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Jul. 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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