Dictionary > English Dictionary > Definition, synonym and antonym of serve
Meaning of serve by Wiktionary Dictionary



    From Middle English serven, from Middle French servir, from Old French, from Latin servire ( “to be a slave, to serve” ), from Latin servus ( “slave, servant” ), perhaps from Etruscan ; compare Etruscan proper names Servi, Serve.[1]


    • ( UK ) IPA: /səːv/
    • ( US ) IPA: /sɝv/
    • Rhymes: -ɜː( r )v


    serve ( plural: serves )

    1. ( sports ) An act of putting the ball or shuttlecock in play in various games .
      Whose serve is it?
    2. ( chiefly Australia ) A portion of food or drink, a serving.




    serve ( third-person singular simple present serves present participle serving, simple past and past participle served )

    1. ( transitive ) To be a formal servant for ( a god or deity ); to worship in an official capacity. [from 12th c.]
    2. ( transitive ) To be a servant for; to work for, to be employed by. [from 13th c.]
    3. ( transitive ) To wait upon ( someone ) at table; to set food and drink in front of, to help ( someone ) to food, meals etc. [from 13th c.]
    4. ( transitive, archaic ) To treat ( someone ) in a given manner. [from 13th c.]
    5. ( intransitive ) To be a servant or worker; to perform the duties of a servant or employee; to render service. [from 14th c.]
    6. ( transitive, archaic ) To be suitor to; to be the lover of. [from 14th c.]
    7. ( transitive ) To be useful to; to meet the needs of. [from 14th c.]
    8. ( intransitive ) To have a given use or purpose; to function for something or to do something. [from 14th c.]
    9. ( intransitive ) To usefully take the place as, instead of something else. [from 14th c.]
    10. ( transitive ) To set down ( food or drink ) on the table to be eaten; to bring ( food, drink ) to a person. [from 15th c.]
    11. ( transitive, law ) To officially deliver ( a legal notice, summons etc. ). [from 15th c.]
    12. ( transitive, law ) To make legal service upon ( a person named in a writ, summons, etc. )
      to serve a witness with a subpoena .
    13. ( intransitive ) To be in military service. [from 16th c.]
    14. ( transitive, intransitive, sports ) To lead off with the first delivery over the net in tennis, volleyball, ping pong, badminton etc. [from 16th c.]
    15. ( transitive ) To copulate with ( of male animals ); to cover. [from 16th c.]
    16. ( transitive, military ) To work, to operate ( a weapon ). [from 18th c.]
    17. ( transitive ) To work through ( a given period of time in prison, a sentence ). [from 19th c.]


    See also

    1. ^ “serve” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary ( 2001 ) .


Explanation of serve by Wordnet Dictionary


    1. put the ball into play

    2. It was Agassi's turn to serve
    3. do duty or hold offices

    4. He served as head of the department for three years
      She served in Congress for two terms
    5. provide ( usually but not necessarily food )

    6. We serve meals for the homeless
      The entertainers served up a lively show
    7. help to some food

    8. I served him three times, and after that he helped himself
    9. mate with

    10. male animals serve the females for breeding purposes
    11. deliver a warrant or summons to someone

    12. do military service

    13. She served in Vietnam
      My sons never served, because they are short-sighted
    14. work for or be a servant to

    15. May I serve you?
      The minister served the King for many years
    16. be used by

    17. The sewage plant served the neighboring communities
      The garage served to shelter his horses
    18. devote ( part of ) one's life or efforts to, as of countries, institutions, or ideas

    19. She served the art of music
      He served the church
      serve the country
    20. be sufficient

    21. Nothing else will serve
    22. contribute or conduce to

    23. The scandal served to increase his popularity
    24. promote, benefit, or be useful or beneficial to

    25. Art serves commerce
      Their interests are served
      The lake serves recreation
      The President's wisdom has served the country well
    26. serve a purpose, role, or function

    27. The tree stump serves as a table
      The female students served as a control group
      This table would serve very well
      His freedom served him well
    28. spend time in prison or in a labor camp

    1. a stroke that puts the ball in play

    2. his powerful serves won the game

    Definition of serve by GCIDE Dictionary


    1. Serve v. t. [imp. & p. p. Served ; p. pr. & vb. n. Serving.] [OE. serven, servien, OF. & F. servir, fr. L. servire; akin to servus a servant or slave, servare to protect, preserve, observe; cf. Zend har to protect, haurva protecting. Cf. Conserve, Desert merit, Dessert, Observe, Serf, Sergeant.]
      1. To work for; to labor in behalf of; to exert one's self continuously or statedly for the benefit of; to do service for; to be in the employment of, as an inferior, domestic, serf, slave, hired assistant, official helper, etc.; specifically, in a religious sense, to obey and worship.

      God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit. Rom. i. 9.

      Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. Gen. xxix. 18.

      No man can serve two masters. Matt. vi. 24.

      Had I but served my God with half the zeal

      I served my king, he would not in mine age

      Have left me naked to mine enemies. Shak.

      2. To be subordinate to; to act a secondary part under; to appear as the inferior of; to minister to.

      Bodies bright and greater should not serve

      The less not bright. Milton.

      3. To be suitor to; to profess love to. [Obs.]

      To serve a lady in his beste wise. Chaucer.

      4. To wait upon; to supply the wants of; to attend; specifically, to wait upon at table; to attend at meals; to supply with food; as, “to serve customers in a shop”.

      Others, pampered in their shameless pride,

      Are served in plate and in their chariots ride. Dryden.

      5. Hence, to bring forward, arrange, deal, or distribute, as a portion of anything, especially of food prepared for eating; -- often with up; formerly with in.

      Bid them cover the table, serve in the meat, and we will come in to dinner. Shak.

      Some part he roasts, then serves it up so dressed. Dryde.

      6. To perform the duties belonging to, or required in or for; hence, to be of use to; as, “a curate may serve two churches; to serve one's country”.

      7. To contribute or conduce to; to promote; to be sufficient for; to satisfy; as, “to serve one's turn”.

      Turn it into some advantage, by observing where it can serve another end. Jer. Taylor.

      8. To answer or be ( in the place of something ) to; as, “a sofa serves one for a seat and a couch”.

      9. To treat; to behave one's self to; to requite; to act toward; as, “he served me very ill”.

      10. To work; to operate; as, “to serve the guns”.

      11. ( Law ) To bring to notice, deliver, or execute, either actually or constructively, in such manner as the law requires; as, “to serve a summons”. To make legal service opon ( a person named in a writ, summons, etc. ); as, “to serve a witness with a subpœna”.

      12. To pass or spend, as time, esp. time of punishment; as, “to serve a term in prison”.

      13. To copulate with; to cover; as, “a horse serves a mare”; -- said of the male.

      14. ( Tennis ) To lead off in delivering ( the ball ).

      15. ( Naut. ) To wind spun yarn, or the like, tightly around ( a rope or cable, etc. ) so as to protect it from chafing or from the weather. See under Serving.

      To serve an attachment or To serve a writ of attachment ( Law ), to levy it on the person or goods by seizure, or to seize. -- To serve an execution ( Law ), to levy it on a lands, goods, or person, by seizure or taking possession. -- To serve an office, to discharge a public duty. -- To serve a process ( Law ), in general, to read it, so as to give due notice to the party concerned, or to leave an attested copy with him or his attorney, or his usual place of abode. -- To serve a warrant, to read it, and seize the person against whom it is issued. -- To serve a writ ( Law ), to read it to the defendant, or to leave an attested copy at his usual place of abode. -- To serve one out, to retaliate upon; to requite. “I'll serve you out for this.” C. Kingsley. -- To serve one right, to treat, or cause to befall one, according to his deserts; -- used commonly of ill deserts; as, “it serves the scoundrel right”. -- To serve one's self of, to avail one's self of; to make use of. [A Gallicism]

      I will serve myself of this concession. Chillingworth.

      -- To serve out, to distribute; as, “to serve out rations”. -- To serve the time or To serve the hour, to regulate one's actions by the requirements of the time instead of by one's duty; to be a timeserver. [Obs.]

      They think herein we serve the time, because thereby we either hold or seek preferment. Hooker.

      Syn. -- To obey; minister to; subserve; promote; aid; help; assist; benefit; succor.

    2. Serve v. i.
      1. To be a servant or a slave; to be employed in labor or other business for another; to be in subjection or bondage; to render menial service.

      The Lord shall give thee rest . . . from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve. Isa. xiv. 3.

      2. To perform domestic offices; to be occupied with household affairs; to prepare and dish up food, etc.

      But Martha . . . said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Luke x. 40.

      3. To be in service; to do duty; to discharge the requirements of an office or employment. Specifically, to act in the public service, as a soldier, seaman. etc.

      Many . . . who had before been great commanders, but now served as private gentlemen without pay. Knolles.

      4. To be of use; to answer a purpose; to suffice; to suit; to be convenient or favorable.

      This little brand will serve to light your fire. Dryden.

      As occasion serves, this noble queen

      And prince shall follow with a fresh supply. Shak.

      5. ( Tennis ) To lead off in delivering the ball.