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  1. qualified for or having a claim to reward, assistance, etc., because of one's actions, qualities, or situation: the deserving poor; a deserving applicant.
  2. meriting; worthy: a criminal deserving of a lifetime sentence.
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Origin of deserving

First recorded in 1570–80; deserve + -ing2
Related formsde·serv·ing·ly, adverbde·serv·ing·ness, nounself-de·serv·ing, adjectiveun·de·serv·ing, adjectiveun·de·serv·ing·ly, adverbun·de·serv·ing·ness, noun


verb (used with object), de·served, de·serv·ing.
  1. to merit, be qualified for, or have a claim to (reward, assistance, punishment, etc.) because of actions, qualities, or situation: to deserve exile; to deserve charity; a theory that deserves consideration.
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verb (used without object), de·served, de·serv·ing.
  1. to be worthy of, qualified for, or have a claim to reward, punishment, recompense, etc.: to reward him as he deserves; an idea deserving of study.
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Origin of deserve

1250–1300; Middle English deserven < Anglo-French, Old French deservir, Latin dēservīre to devote oneself to the service of, equivalent to dē- de- + servīre to serve
Related formsde·serv·er, nounpre·de·serve, verb (used with object), pre·de·served, pre·de·serv·ing.


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for deserving

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Rare, indeed, is it to find a deserving peasant without them in France!

    The Roof of France

    Matilda Betham-Edwards

  • And indeed, as I have often said, never was there a young creature so deserving of our love.

    Clarissa, Volume 2 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • Once they were deserving of our protection; now they even neglect to ask it.

    Old Greek Folk Stories Told Anew

    Josephine Preston Peabody

  • Yes, I gave money to some people who, it seems, were not deserving of it.

  • I hope it is deserving the acceptance of the illustrious Caeri.

    Gomez Arias

    Joaqun Telesforo de Trueba y Coso

British Dictionary definitions for deserving


  1. (often postpositive and foll by of) worthy, esp of praise or reward
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  1. rare a merit or demerit; desert
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Derived Formsdeservingly, adverbdeservingness, noun


  1. (tr) to be entitled to or worthy of; merit
  2. (intr foll by of) obsolete to be worthy
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Derived Formsdeserved, adjectivedeservedness (dɪˈzɜːvɪdnɪs), noundeserver, noun

Word Origin

C13: from Old French deservir, from Latin dēservīre to serve devotedly, from de- + servīre to serve
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for deserving



early 13c., from Old French deservir (Modern French desservir) "deserve, be worthy of, earn, merit," from Latin deservire "serve well," from de- "completely" (see de-) + servire "to serve" (see serve). From "be entitled to because of good service" (a sense found in Late Latin), meaning generalized c.1300 to "be worthy of." Related: Deserved; deserving.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with deserving


see one good turn deserves another.

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