servile

adjective ser·vile \ ˈsər-vəl , -ˌvī(-ə)l \
Updated on: 11 Sep 2017

Definition of servile

1 :of or befitting a slave or a menial position
2 :meanly or cravenly submissive :abject

servilely

play \ˈsər-və(l)-lē, -ˌvī(-ə)l-lē\ adverb

servileness

play \ˈsər-vəl-nəs, -ˌvī(-ə)l-\ noun

servility

play \(ˌ)sər-ˈvi-lə-tē\ noun

servile was our Word of the Day on 08/30/2012. Hear the podcast!

Examples of servile in a Sentence

  1. had always maintained a servile attitude around people with money

Recent Examples of servile from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'servile.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Did You Know?

Latin served us servile with the help of servilis, itself from servus, the Latin word for "slave." Servus is also an ancestor of serve, service, and servitude. Synonyms of servile in English include subservient, slavish, and obsequious. Subservient implies the cringing manner of one very conscious of a subordinate position." "Slavish" suggests abject or debased servitude. "Obsequious" implies fawning or sycophantic compliance and exaggerated deference of manner. "Servile" suggests the mean or fawning behavior of a slave.

Origin and Etymology of servile

Middle English, from Anglo-French servil, from Latin servilis, from servus slave

Synonym Discussion of servile

subservient, servile, slavish, obsequious mean showing or characterized by extreme compliance or abject obedience. subservient implies the cringing manner of one very conscious of a subordinate position.
    • domestic help was expected to be properly subservient
servile suggests the mean or fawning behavior of a slave.
    • a political boss and his entourage of servile hangers-on
slavish suggests abject or debased servility.
    • the slavish status of migrant farm workers
obsequious implies fawning or sycophantic compliance and exaggerated deference of manner.
    • waiters who are obsequious in the presence of celebrities

SERVILE Defined for English Language Learners

servile

adjective

Definition of servile for English Language Learners

  • : very obedient and trying too hard to please someone


SERVILE Defined for Kids

servile

adjective ser·vile \ ˈsər-vəl \

Definition of servile for Students

1 :of or suitable to a slave
  • servile work
2 :very obedient and trying too hard to please


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up servile? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

spoken rather than written

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one-green-toy-robot-amidst-many-red-toy-robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!