[sur-vil, -vahyl]
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  1. slavishly submissive or obsequious; fawning: servile flatterers.
  2. characteristic of, proper to, or customary for slaves; abject: servile obedience.
  3. yielding slavishly; truckling (usually followed by to).
  4. extremely imitative, especially in the arts; lacking in originality.
  5. being in slavery; oppressed.
  6. of, relating to, or involving slaves or servants.
  7. of or relating to a condition of servitude or property ownership in which a person is held as a slave or as partially enslaved: medieval rebellions against servile laws.

Origin of servile

1350–1400; Middle English < Latin servīlis, equivalent to serv- (stem of servīre to be a slave) + -īlis -ile
Related formsser·vile·ly, adverbser·vil·i·ty, ser·vile·ness, nounnon·ser·vile, adjectivenon·ser·vile·ly, adverbnon·ser·vile·ness, nouno·ver·ser·vile, adjectiveo·ver·ser·vile·ly, adverbo·ver·ser·vile·ness, nouno·ver·ser·vil·i·ty, nounpseu·do·ser·vile, adjectivepseu·do·ser·vile·ly, adverbun·ser·vile, adjectiveun·ser·vile·ly, adverb

Synonyms for servile

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1, 2. cringing, sycophantic. Servile, menial, obsequious, slavish characterize one who behaves like a slave or an inferior. Servile suggests cringing, fawning, and abject submission: servile responses to questions. Menial applies to that which is considered undesirable drudgery: the most menial tasks. Obsequious implies the ostentatious subordination of oneself to the wishes of another, either from fear or from hope of gain: an obsequious waiter. Slavish stresses the dependence and labori-ous toil of one who follows or obeys without question: slavish attentiveness to orders. 2. mean, base, low.

Antonyms for servile Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Historical Examples of servility

British Dictionary definitions for servility


  1. obsequious or fawning in attitude or behaviour; submissive
  2. of or suitable for a slave
  3. existing in or relating to a state of slavery
  4. (when postpositive, foll by to) submitting or obedient
Derived Formsservilely, adverbservility (sɜːˈvɪlɪtɪ) or servileness, noun

Word Origin for servile

C14: from Latin servīlis, from servus slave
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 servility

1570s; see servile + -ity.



late 14c., from Latin servilis "of a slave" (as in Servile Wars, name given to the slave revolts in the late Roman Republic), also "slavish, servile," from servus "slave" (see serve (v.)). Earliest sense was legal, servile work being forbidden on the Sabbath; sense of "cringing, fawning" first recorded c.1600.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper