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See more synonyms for self-service on Thesaurus.com
  1. the serving of oneself in a restaurant, shop, gas station, or other facility, without the aid of a waiter, clerk, attendant, etc.
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  1. noting or pertaining to a cafeteria, grocery, store, etc., designed for the patron or customer to gather food or merchandise from a display or display shelves without the aid of attendants and pay at a cashier's desk upon leaving.
  2. of, for, or pertaining to something designed to be used or enjoyed without the aid of an attendant: self-service banking; self-service elevators.
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Origin of self-service

First recorded in 1920–25
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

smorgasbord, buffet, self-serve

Examples from the Web for self-service

Historical Examples

  • He came in, employing the self-service, picked up—let's see, cinnamon rolls—you said?

    Warren Commission (10 of 26): Hearings Vol. X (of 15)

    The President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy

  • Each suite is furnished appropriately; each is fully Gunthered for self-service.

    The Galaxy Primes

    Edward Elmer Smith

British Dictionary definitions for self-service


  1. of or denoting a shop, restaurant, petrol station, etc, where the customer serves himself
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  1. the practice of serving oneself, as in a shop, etc
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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 self-service


1919, in reference to grocery stores, from self- + service (n.1).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper