from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To work for.
  • transitive v. To be a servant to.
  • transitive v. To prepare and offer (food, for example): serve tea.
  • transitive v. To place food before (someone); wait on: served the guests a wonderful dinner.
  • transitive v. To provide goods and services for (customers): a hotel that has served tourists at the same location for 30 years.
  • transitive v. To supply (goods or services) to customers. See Usage Note at service.
  • transitive v. To assist the celebrant during (Mass).
  • transitive v. To meet the requirements of; suffice for: This will serve the purpose.
  • transitive v. To be of assistance to or promote the interests of; aid: "Both major parties today seek to serve the national interest” ( John F. Kennedy).
  • transitive v. To work through or complete (a period of service): served four terms in Congress.
  • transitive v. To be in prison for (a period or term): served 10 years for armed robbery.
  • transitive v. To fight or undergo military service for: served the country for five years in the navy.
  • transitive v. To give homage and obedience to: served God.
  • transitive v. To act toward (another) in a specified way: She has served me ill.
  • transitive v. To copulate with; service. Used of male animals.
  • transitive v. Law To deliver or present (a writ or summons).
  • transitive v. Law To present such a writ to.
  • transitive v. Sports To put (a ball or shuttlecock) in play, as in tennis, badminton, or jai alai.
  • transitive v. To bind or whip (a rope) with fine cord or wire.
  • intransitive v. To be employed as a servant.
  • intransitive v. To do a term of duty: serve in the U.S. Air Force; serve on a jury.
  • intransitive v. To act in a particular capacity: serve as a clerk.
  • intransitive v. To be of service or use; function: Let this incident serve as a reminder to future generations.
  • intransitive v. To meet requirements or needs; satisfy: a device that will serve well.
  • intransitive v. To wait on tables: serve at luncheon.
  • intransitive v. Sports To put a ball or shuttlecock into play, as in court games.
  • intransitive v. To assist the celebrant during Mass.
  • n. Sports The right, manner, or act of serving in many court games.
  • serve up Baseball To pitch (a ball) over the middle of home plate, where it is likely to be hit hard.
  • idiom serve (someone) right To be deserved under the circumstances: Punish him; it will serve him right for what he has done to you.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An act of putting the ball or shuttlecock in play in various games.
  • n. A portion of food or drink, a serving.
  • v. To make legal service upon (a person named in a writ, summons, etc.)

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • transitive v. 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.
  • transitive v. To be subordinate to; to act a secondary part under; to appear as the inferior of; to minister to.
  • transitive v. To be suitor to; to profess love to.
  • transitive v. To wait upon; to supply the wants of; to attend; specifically, to wait upon at table; to attend at meals; to supply with food.
  • transitive v. 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.
  • transitive v. To perform the duties belonging to, or required in or for; hence, to be of use to.
  • transitive v. To contribute or conduce to; to promote; to be sufficient for; to satisfy.
  • transitive v. To answer or be (in the place of something) to.
  • transitive v. To treat; to behave one's self to; to requite; to act toward.
  • transitive v. To work; to operate.
  • transitive v.
  • transitive v. To bring to notice, deliver, or execute, either actually or constructively, in such manner as the law requires.
  • transitive v. To make legal service opon (a person named in a writ, summons, etc.).
  • transitive v. To pass or spend, as time, esp. time of punishment.
  • transitive v. To copulate with; to cover; ; -- said of the male.
  • transitive v. To lead off in delivering (the ball).
  • transitive v. 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.
  • intransitive v. 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.
  • intransitive v. To perform domestic offices; to be occupied with household affairs; to prepare and dish up food, etc.
  • intransitive v. 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.
  • intransitive v. To be of use; to answer a purpose; to suffice; to suit; to be convenient or favorable.
  • intransitive v. To lead off in delivering the ball.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To attend or wait upon; act as servant to; work for; be in the employment of as a slave, domestic, hired helper, or the like.
  • To render spiritual obedience and worship to; conform to the law and do the will of.
  • To be subordinate or subservient to; minister to.
  • To wait on or attend in the services of the table or at meals.
  • To bring forward and place or arrange, as viands or food on a table: often with up, formerly with forth or in.
  • To administer the service of; perform the duties required for: as, a curate may serve two churches.
  • To contribute or conduce to; promote.
  • To aid by good offices; minister to the wants or well-being of.
  • To be of use to instead of something else: with for: as, a sofa may serve one for a bed.
  • To regulate one's conduct in accordance with the spirit, fashion, or demands of; comply with.
  • To behave toward; treat; requite: as, he served me very shabbily.
  • To suffice; satisfy; content.
  • To be of use or service to; answer the requirements of; avail.
  • To be a professed lover of; be a suitor to.
  • To handle; manipulate; work; manage: as, the guns were well served.
  • Nautical, to bind or wind tightly with small cord, generally spun-yarn or marline: as, to serve a backstay.
  • In law, to deliver or send to; present to in due form; communicate by delivery or by reading, according to different methods prescribed by different laws: often with on or upon before the person: as, to serve a notice upon a tenant.
  • To supply; furnish: usually said of regular and continuous supply: as, a newsman serves families with papers; a reservoir serves a town with water.
  • To earn.
  • To copulate with; cover: used of male animals, as stallions, jacks, or bulls, kept for breeding purposes at a price.
  • To deliver, as a ball, in the manner of the first player in tennis or lawn-tennis, or the pitcher in base-ball: as, he served a swift ball.
  • To deserve.
  • Synonyms To labor for, attend, aid, assist, help.
  • To advance, forward, benefit.
  • To be or act as a servant or attendant; be employed in services or ministrations for another: formerly with to.
  • Specifically
  • To perform domestic offices for another; wait upon one as a servant.
  • To discharge the duties of an office or employment; do duty in any capacity under authority, especially as a soldier or seaman.
  • To be in subjection or servitude.
  • Eccles., to act as server at the celebration of the eucharist. See server, 1 .
  • To answer the purpose; accomplish the end; avail; be sufficient; suffice: often followed by a present infinitive of purpose.
  • To suit; be convenient; be favorable: said especially of a favoring wind or current.
  • To be a professed lover or suitor.
  • To deliver or bat the ball, as done by the player who leads off in tennis or lawn-tennis.
  • n. In tennis or lawn-tennis:
  • n. The act of the first player in striking the ball, or the style in which the ball is then delivered: as, a good serve.
  • n. The right of hitting or delivering the ball first: as, it is my serve.
  • n. The service-tree.
  • n. The fruit of the service-tree.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. help to some food; help with food or drink
  • v. serve a purpose, role, or function
  • v. promote, benefit, or be useful or beneficial to
  • n. (sports) a stroke that puts the ball in play
  • v. do duty or hold offices; serve in a specific function
  • v. provide (usually but not necessarily food)
  • v. mate with
  • v. do military service
  • v. be used by; as of a utility
  • v. devote (part of) one's life or efforts to, as of countries, institutions, or ideas
  • v. contribute or conduce to
  • v. work for or be a servant to
  • v. be sufficient; be adequate, either in quality or quantity
  • v. deliver a warrant or summons to someone
  • v. spend time in prison or in a labor camp
  • v. put the ball into play


Middle English serven, from Old French servir, from Latin servīre, from servus, slave.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
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. (Wiktionary)



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