Word of the Day: serve

Word of the Day
August 1, 2016
serve (verb)
/sɝv/  sound icon
A tennis player serving
To serve means 'to work for someone' and also 'to give food or drink to someone at a table.' In the UK, it can also refer to helping someone in a store. It means 'to help and provide assistance' and also 'to contribute or be useful to something.' Serve also means 'to go through a term of service,' like in the army, or 'to spend time in jail.'


Example sentences
The butler had been serving the same family for over 20 years.
The waitress served everyone at the table their drinks.
That's the nice young man who served me in the shop the other day.
The riots served the government's aim of introducing new laws restricting public gatherings.
Nicholas served 25 years in the army before retiring.
Rachel is still serving her sentence, but she hopes to find a job when she gets out of prison.


Multi-word forms
serve someone right: be deserved. Example: "The dog bit you? I'm not surprised, with the way you keep teasing him; it serves you right!"
serve your time: complete a prison sentence. Example: "Mark has served his time, but people still don't trust him."
Additional information
In sports such as tennis, volleyball, or handball, to serve means 'to start playing' by hitting the ball. A serve, as a noun, is the act of serving.
Did you know?
Many people may be familiar with the phrase you've been served from American TV shows about lawyers. In the legal sense, in the US, to serve someone is to give them an official notification that they have been sued and will need to appear in civil court. This is usually done in person, so there is no question that the papers have been received. This does not mean, however, that people can avoid being served by not taking the documents, or running and hiding once they are approached. Once the person delivering the documents (usually called a process server) has made direct contact, they may leave the papers outside the door or on a desk where you can later retrieve them. In exceptional cases, when a person cannot be found, delivering them to their known address can be considered enough. As for criminal cases, warrants to arrest someone or to search a property are also served, but in this case they are given to the person in question by the police before the arrest or the search.
Other forms
server (noun), servable/serveable (adjective)
Serve can be traced all the way back to the Latin servīre, which meant 'to serve,' and was derived from the Latin word for 'slave,' servus (this is where the word serf, 'a peasant attached to a feudal lord' came from). It entered the English language through the Old French verb servir, as the Middle English verb serven, in the mid-12th century.
Serve in other languages
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