\ 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

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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 Consumers, flush with stimulus cash and ready to re-engage after a year of lockdowns, are eager to spend, but some businesses lack the staff and supplies to serve them. Chronicle Staff, San Francisco Chronicle, 13 June 2021 That understanding will serve me for the rest of my life., 11 June 2021 As waves wash over the side and passengers curl into balls — and as the crew continues to serve them buffet dinners and clean up after them — Kwak takes stock. Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune, 11 June 2021 During the Jim Crow era, faith leaders and church members hosted Black travelers when hotels and diners wouldn't serve them. NBC News, 10 June 2021 The Modi government demanded, unsuccessfully, that the company drop the tag and sent police to the company’s Delhi office to serve it a notice of investigation. Sadanand Dhume, WSJ, 10 June 2021 Self-pour kiosks where customers can serve themselves beer could come to the Mall of India, pending approval from the City of Naperville. Rafael Guerrero,, 7 June 2021 Prep this dish then keep it in your freezer to pull out and bake when the craving hits, And always — always — serve it with vanilla ice cream. Ben Mims, Los Angeles Times, 6 June 2021 When police went to serve him with revocation warrant, there were two firearms in plain view, also a violation of probation and state law. Carol Robinson |, al, 4 June 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Marzorati argues that women match men’s power in tennis in part by noting that Williams’s first serve can be harder than either Novak Djokovic’s or Rafael Nadal’s. Washington Post, 16 June 2021 Leading, 2-1, in the third set, Djokovic started jumping on Tsitsipas’s serve for the first time in nearly an hour, pushing him back into the court and moving him from side to side. Matthew Futterman, New York Times, 13 June 2021 All of a sudden, Pavlyuchenkova had found her range and confidence and broke Krejcikova's serve before opening up an early 3-0 lead in the second. Matias Grez, CNN, 12 June 2021 After Zverev played more aggressive tennis to win the third and fourth sets, Tsitsipas fought back from 0-40 to hold serve in the first game of the fifth set. Adam Zagoria, Forbes, 11 June 2021 One person asks a question; the other answers, then returns the serve., 8 June 2021 The next serve went into the net, giving Fenwick a straight win 25-22, 25-18, 25-16 and a celebration a referee's whistle didn't end. Alex Harrison, The Enquirer, 7 June 2021 The drink depicted in sculpture is minimalist compared with the Bloody Marys Sobelman's serve. Isabel Koyama, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 28 May 2021 Toss carrots, celery and onion with cabbage and serve. Kate Merker, Good Housekeeping, 26 May 2021

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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Learn More About serve

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

17 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Serve.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jun. 2021.

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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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