serve Definition

  • 1to give someone food or drink, especially as part of a meal or in a restaurant
  • 2to work for; to be employed by
  • 3to help achieve something; to be useful
  • 4to spend a period of time in prison

Using serve: Examples

Take a moment to familiarize yourself with how "serve" can be used in various situations through the following examples!

  • Example

    Can I serve you some coffee?

  • Example

    He served in the army for five years.

  • Example

    This tool can serve multiple purposes.

  • Example

    He was sentenced to serve three years in prison.

serve Synonyms and Antonyms

Idioms Using serve

  • used to say that someone deserves something bad that has happened to them


    He was caught cheating on the test. It serves him right that he failed.

  • to provide or offer something, especially food or drink


    She served up a delicious meal for her guests.

  • to officially deliver legal documents to someone


    The lawyer served the defendant with the court papers.

Phrases with serve

  • to be useful for a particular task or goal


    This old computer may not be fast, but it will serve the purpose for basic tasks.

  • to deserve what has happened to oneself, often used in a negative sense


    He lost his job because he was always late. It serves him right.

  • to officially inform someone about something, usually related to ending a contract or agreement


    The landlord served notice to the tenants to vacate the apartment.

Origins of serve

from Old French 'servir', from Latin 'servire', meaning 'to be a slave'


Summary: serve in Brief

The verb 'serve' [sɜːv] has several meanings. It can refer to giving food or drink, working for someone, being useful, or spending time in prison. Examples include 'Can I serve you some coffee?' and 'He was sentenced to serve three years in prison.' 'Serve' also appears in phrases like 'serve the purpose,' and idioms like 'serve somebody right,' indicating deserving punishment, and 'serve up something,' meaning to provide something, especially food or drink.

How do native speakers use this expression?