ser·​vile | \ ˈsər-vəl , -ˌvī(-ə)l\

Definition of servile

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from servile

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

Synonyms for servile


abject, base, humble, menial, slavish

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 mean or fawning behavior of a slave.

Examples of servile in a Sentence

had always maintained a servile attitude around people with money

Recent Examples on the Web

Satya is servile and deceptive; Rebecca, candid and egalitarian. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction: An Indian Visitor in Search of America," 26 July 2018 Even the most servile propaganda puppets in the right-wing media can’t figure out a way to credibly defend that. David Zurawik,, "Trump border policy so debased even right-wing media can't defend it credibly," 19 June 2018 By the end of the last season the hosts had become conscious of their servile condition and taken over. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Puzzled by Westworld? Look to Shakespeare.," 26 June 2018 The only substantive issue is Arrington’s claim that Sanford has been insufficiently servile towards the president. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "GOP Could Get Even Trumpier in June 12 Primaries," 12 June 2018 Social media was scoured for posts offensive to the president, and the judiciary was rendered servile to him. Suzy Hansen, The New Republic, "“What Difference Is Trump for Us?”," 24 Apr. 2018 Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile., "Read Sen. Jeff Flake's speech announcing he will not seek reelection: 'I will not be complicit'," 24 Oct. 2017 Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. Taylor Hosking, The Atlantic, "Full Transcript: Senator Jeff Flake Announces He Won't Seek Reelection," 24 Oct. 2017 Blame this on Cicero, the ancient Roman orator, who championed the arts quae libero sunt dignae (cerebral studies suited for freemen), as opposed to the practical, servile arts suited for lower-class tradespeople. George Anders, The Atlantic, "The Unexpected Value of the Liberal Arts," 1 Aug. 2017

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about servile

Listen to Our Podcast about servile

Statistics for servile

Last Updated

14 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for servile

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for servile



English Language Learners Definition of servile

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


ser·​vile | \ ˈsər-vəl \

Kids Definition of servile

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on servile

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with servile

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for servile

Spanish Central: Translation of servile

Nglish: Translation of servile for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of servile for Arabic Speakers

Comments on servile

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


to express emotion in a dramatic way

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What did you just call me?! A Quiz

  • rows-of-various-emoji
  • If a member of the audience describes your speech as bombastic, does that person mean it is:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Dictionary Devil

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


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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