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

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

Synonyms for servile


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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 someone who is very conscious of having 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 In Ukrainka’s play, Oksana’s husband is servile, obligingly performing Ukrainian songs and dances for the czar’s entertainment, while the artist in Zabuzhko’s novel is wracked by an inferiority complex familiar to citizens of dominated nations. Uilleam Blacker, The Atlantic, 10 Mar. 2022 Yet, as the technology gap with the West narrows, China's desire for self-reliance rises, and once-servile entrepreneurs have become increasingly outspoken in their critique of China's economic system. Sonja Opper For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, 8 Nov. 2021 If China’s leaders are as wise as its propagandists are servile, the Middle Kingdom’s future is secure. Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, 8 Nov. 2021 These conditions led them to become stereotyped as industrious and servile, which affected how employers treated them. NBC News, 4 Oct. 2021 For India’s mostly servile media, this is a striking break from the usual after seven years of Modi. Debasish Roy Chowdhury, Time, 3 May 2021 Julie Andrews played Cinderella—neat as a new pin and not remotely servile. Carol Dyhouse, Time, 19 Apr. 2021 As a result of this sort of culture, the stereotype of dancers as servile bodies that are better seen than heard unfortunately calcified long ago. Sydney Skybetter, Wired, 7 Feb. 2021 The others at the table nodded their heads in servile agreement. Keith Mcnally, Harpers Magazine, 5 Jan. 2021 See More

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.

First Known Use of servile

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for servile

Middle English, borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French servil, borrowed from Latin servīlis "of a slave, slavish, abject," from servus "slave" + -īlis "pertaining to or characteristic of (such persons)" — more at serve entry 1

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

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Cite this Entry

“Servile.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for servile


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

More from Merriam-Webster on servile

Nglish: Translation of servile for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of servile for Arabic Speakers


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