ser·​vile | \ ˈsər-vəl How to pronounce servile (audio) , -ˌvī(-ə)l \

Definition of servile

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

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Other Words from servile

servilely \ ˈsər-​və(l)-​lē How to pronounce servile (audio) , -​ˌvī(-​ə)l-​lē \ adverb
servileness \ ˈsər-​vəl-​nəs How to pronounce servile (audio) , -​ˌvī(-​ə)l-​ \ noun
servility \ (ˌ)sər-​ˈvi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce servile (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

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 fawning behavior of one in forced servitude.

Examples of servile in a Sentence

had always maintained a servile attitude around people with money
Recent Examples on the Web The others at the table nodded their heads in servile agreement. Keith Mcnally, Harpers Magazine, "Pour Decisions," 5 Jan. 2021 What struck General McMaster was how Mr. Li’s monologue suggested an almost neocolonial relationship between a superior China and a servile U.S. Ann Scott Tyson, The Christian Science Monitor, "Fueling US-China clash, years of disconnects," 2 Oct. 2020 Early Blackamoor figures, made from expensive ebony and silver, were almost always shown in servile positions—as as the base of a table, or supporting a candelabra, or even acting as a seat. Emma Bazilian, House Beautiful, "There’s No Excuse for Buying or Decorating With Blackamoors," 28 Aug. 2020 Nikki Haley, Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have never had to be quite as servile in their support. Steve Chapman,, "Column: Mike Pence debases the vice presidency. Kamala Harris can elevate it.," 28 Aug. 2020 The spark was Georgian Dream’s increasingly servile relationship toward Russia. Amos Barshad, Wired, "The Prince of Georgia Is Big on Instagram," 27 Aug. 2020 His looming, hooded lab assistant Chopsley was his silent and servile foil. Doug Maccash | Staff Writer,, "Sid Noel Rideau, who played Morgus the Magnificent and created the beloved TV show, has died," 27 Aug. 2020 Stormy Weather’ The Jim Crow laws that enforced segregation thoroughly shaped Hollywood, and for decades African-American performers appeared in marginal, often servile roles or not at all. Manohla Dargis, New York Times, "Escape With Me Into the Delirious World of 1940s Musicals," 7 May 2020 To these critics, many of whom are of Indian descent, Apu is a servile stereotype. Dave Itzkoff, New York Times, "Why Hank Azaria Won’t Play Apu on ‘The Simpsons’ Anymore," 25 Feb. 2020

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.

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First Known Use of servile

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for servile

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

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Time Traveler for servile

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The first known use of servile was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

13 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Servile.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for servile


How to pronounce servile (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of servile

formal + disapproving : very obedient and trying too hard to please someone


ser·​vile | \ ˈsər-vəl How to pronounce servile (audio) \

Kids Definition of servile

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

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