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

Definition of servile

1 : of or befitting a slave or 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 servilely (audio) , -​ˌvī(-​ə)l-​lē \ adverb
servileness \ ˈsər-​vəl-​nəs How to pronounce servileness (audio) , -​ˌvī(-​ə)l-​ \ noun
servility \ (ˌ)sər-​ˈvi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce servility (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 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 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 Montesquieu characterized Islamic states as dominated by tyrants and religiously servile. Jacob Soll, The New Republic, "How Islam Shaped the Enlightenment," 12 Apr. 2018 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

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

10 Apr 2020

Cite this Entry

“Servile.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on servile

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for servile

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with servile

Spanish Central: Translation of servile

Nglish: Translation of servile for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of servile for Arabic Speakers

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