View synonyms for serve


[ surv ]

verb (used without object)

, served, serv·ing.
  1. to act as a servant.

    Synonyms: attend

  2. to wait on table, as a waiter.

    Synonyms: attend

  3. to offer or have a meal or refreshments available, as for patrons or guests:

    Come early, we're serving at six.

  4. to offer or distribute a portion or portions of food or a beverage, as a host or hostess:

    It was her turn to serve at the faculty tea.

  5. to render assistance; be of use; help.

    Synonyms: succor, aid

  6. to go through a term of service, do duty as a soldier, sailor, senator, juror, etc.
  7. to have definite use:

    This cup will serve as a sugar bowl.

  8. to answer the purpose:

    That will serve to explain my actions.

  9. (in tennis, badminton, handball, etc.) to put the ball or shuttlecock in play with a stroke, swing, or hit.
  10. to be favorable, suitable, or convenient, as weather or time.
  11. Ecclesiastical. to act as a server.

verb (used with object)

, served, serv·ing.
  1. to be in the service of; work for.
  2. to be useful or of service to; help.
  3. to go through (a term of service, imprisonment, etc.).
  4. to render active service to (a sovereign, commander, etc.).
  5. to render obedience or homage to (God, a sovereign, etc.).
  6. to perform the duties of (a position, an office, etc.):

    to serve his mayoralty.

  7. to answer the requirements of; suffice:

    This will serve our needs for the moment.

  8. to contribute to; promote:

    to serve a cause.

  9. to wait upon at table; act as a waiter or waitress to.
  10. to carry and distribute (portions of food or drink) to a patron or a specific table, as a waiter or waitress.
  11. to act as a host or hostess in offering (a person) a portion of food or drink:

    May I serve you with some tea and cake?

  12. to act as a host or hostess in offering or distributing (a portion or portions of food or drink) to another:

    They served tea and cake to their guests.

  13. to provide with a regular or continuous supply of something.
  14. (in tennis, badminton, handball, etc.) to put (the ball or shuttlecock) in play.
  15. to treat in a specified manner:

    That served him ill.

  16. Law.
    1. to make legal delivery of (a process or writ).
    2. to present (a person) with a writ.
  17. to gratify (desire, wants, needs, etc.).
  18. (of a male animal) to mate with; service.
  19. to operate or keep in action (a gun, artillery, etc.).
  20. Nautical. to wrap (a rope) tightly with small stuff, keeping the turns as close together as possible.


  1. the act, manner, or right of serving, as in tennis.


/ sɜːv /


  1. to be in the service of (a person)
  2. to render or be of service to (a person, cause, etc); help
  3. (in a shop) to give (customers) information about articles for sale and to hand over articles purchased
  4. tr to provide (guests, customers, etc) with food, drink, etc

    she served her guests with cocktails

  5. to distribute or provide (food, drink, etc) for guests, customers, etc

    do you serve coffee?

  6. trsometimes foll byup to present (food, drink, etc) in a specified manner

    cauliflower served with cheese sauce

  7. tr to provide with a regular supply of
  8. tr to work actively for

    to serve the government

  9. tr to pay homage to

    to serve God

  10. to answer the requirements of; suit

    this will serve my purpose

  11. intr; may take an infinitive to have a use; function

    this wood will serve to build a fire

  12. to go through (a period of service, enlistment, imprisonment, etc)
  13. intr (of weather, conditions, etc) to be favourable or suitable
  14. Alsoservice tr (of a male animal) to copulate with (a female animal)
  15. sport to put (the ball) into play
  16. intr RC Church to act as server at Mass or other services
  17. tr to deliver (a legal document, esp a writ or summons) to (a person)
  18. to provide (a machine, etc) with an impulse or signal for control purposes or with a continuous supply of fuel, working material, etc
  19. tr nautical to bind (a rope, spar, etc) with wire or fine cord to protect it from chafing, etc See also seize
  20. serve a person right informal.
    to pay a person back, esp for wrongful or foolish treatment or behaviour


  1. sport short for service 1
  2. a portion or helping of food or drink

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Derived Forms

  • ˈservable, adjective

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Other Words From

  • serva·ble servea·ble adjective
  • over·serve verb (used with object)
  • under·served adjective
  • un·serva·ble adjective
  • un·served adjective
  • well-served adjective

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Word History and Origins

Origin of serve1

First recorded in 1125–75; Middle English serven, from Old French servir, from Latin servīre, equivalent to serv(us) “enslaved person” ( serf ) + -īre, infinitive suffix

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Word History and Origins

Origin of serve1

C13: from Old French servir, from Latin servīre, from servus a slave

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Idioms and Phrases

  1. serve one right, to treat one as one deserves, especially to punish justly:

    It will serve you right if she never speaks to you again.

More idioms and phrases containing serve

  • break someone's serve
  • first come, first served
  • hand to on a silver platter (serve up on a plate)

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Example Sentences

Placed in drinking water, fluoride can serve people who otherwise have poor access to dental care.

Real Housewives of New Jersey star Teresa Giudice turned herself in to serve a 15-month sentence for bankruptcy fraud.

Serve with the warm sauce and your choice of ice cream, whipped cream, or yogurt.

Krivov was sentenced to serve four years at a general regime penal colony for his fight for freedom and human rights.

But as we are seeing all over the world, one can serve the other.

These Rules (leaving out the Tenor) serves for five bells; and leaving out the fifth and Tenor, they serve for four bells.

She had carried the baby over to Juana's and left her there, that she might be free to serve the Father's supper.

He shall serve among great men, and appear before the governor.

There are four general forms of emphasis which serve as indications of the characteristics of expression.

The lower class were idle and lazy, and willing to serve any sovereign who appealed to them by ostentation.


Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.




servant churchserve a purpose