as in humble
showing, expressing, or offered in a spirit of humility or unseemly submissiveness had always maintained a servile attitude around people with money

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How is the word servile distinct from other similar adjectives?

Some common synonyms of servile are obsequious, slavish, and subservient. While all these words mean "showing or characterized by extreme compliance or abject obedience," servile suggests the mean or fawning behavior of a slave.

a political boss and his entourage of servile hangers-on

When might obsequious be a better fit than servile?

While in some cases nearly identical to servile, obsequious implies fawning or sycophantic compliance and exaggerated deference of manner.

waiters who are obsequious in the presence of celebrities

When could slavish be used to replace servile?

The words slavish and servile can be used in similar contexts, but slavish suggests abject or debased servility.

the slavish status of migrant farm workers

When would subservient be a good substitute for servile?

In some situations, the words subservient and servile are roughly equivalent. However, subservient implies the cringing manner of one very conscious of a subordinate position.

domestic help was expected to be properly subservient

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Cite this Entry

“Servile.” Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/servile. Accessed 26 May. 2024.

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