Definition of serve verb from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//sɜːv//
    ; NAmE NAmE//sɜːrv//
    Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they serve
    BrE BrE//sɜːv//
    ; NAmE NAmE//sɜːrv//
    he / she / it serves
    BrE BrE//sɜːvz//
    ; NAmE NAmE//sɜːrvz//
    past simple served
    BrE BrE//sɜːvd//
    ; NAmE NAmE//sɜːrvd//
    past participle served
    BrE BrE//sɜːvd//
    ; NAmE NAmE//sɜːrvd//
    -ing form serving
    BrE BrE//ˈsɜːvɪŋ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈsɜːrvɪŋ//
    Prison, Tennis, Dining out
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  1. 1  [transitive, intransitive] to give somebody food or drink, for example at a restaurant or during a meal serve (something) Breakfast is served between 7 and 10 a.m. Pour the sauce over the pasta and serve immediately. Shall I serve? serve something with something Serve the lamb with new potatoes and green beans. serve something to somebody They served a wonderful meal to more than fifty delegates. serve somebody with something The delegates were served with a wonderful meal. serve somebody something She served us a delicious lunch. serve something + adj. The quiche can be served hot or cold. See related entries: Dining out
  2. 2[transitive] serve somebody/something (of an amount of food) to be enough for somebody/something This dish will serve four hungry people.
  3. customers
  4. 3  [transitive, intransitive] serve (somebody) (especially British English) to help a customer or sell them something in a shop/store Are you being served? She was serving behind the counter.
  5. be useful
  6. 4  [transitive] serve something/somebody to be useful to somebody in achieving or satisfying something These experiments serve no useful purpose. Most of their economic policies serve the interests of big business. How can we best serve the needs of future generations? His linguistic ability served him well in his chosen profession.
  7. provide something
  8. 5  [transitive] to provide an area or a group of people with a product or service serve somebody/something The centre will serve the whole community. serve somebody/something with something The town is well served with buses and major road links.
  9. be suitable
  10. 6[intransitive] serve (as something) to be suitable for a particular use, especially when nothing else is available The sofa will serve as a bed for a night or two.
  11. have particular result
  12. 7[intransitive, transitive] to have a particular effect or result serve as something The judge said the punishment would serve as a warning to others. serve to do something The attack was unsuccessful and served only to alert the enemy.
  13. work
  14. 8  [intransitive, transitive] to work or perform duties for a person, an organization, a country, etc. serve (as something) He served as a captain in the army. serve in/on/with something She served in the medical corps. serve under/with somebody He served under Tony Blair in the 1990s. serve something I wanted to work somewhere where I could serve the community. serve somebody (as something) He served the family faithfully for many years (= as a servant).
  15. 9[transitive, intransitive] to spend a period of time in a particular job or training for a job serve something He served a one-year apprenticeship. serve as something She was elected to serve as secretary of the local party.
  16. time in prison
  17. 10[transitive] serve something to spend a period of time in prison prisoners serving life sentences She is serving two years for theft. He has served time (= been to prison) before. See related entries: Prison
  18. official document
  19. 11[transitive] (law) to give or send somebody an official document, especially one that orders them to appear in court serve something (on somebody) to serve a writ/summons on somebody serve somebody with something to serve somebody with a writ/summons
  20. in sport
  21. 12[intransitive, transitive] (in tennis, etc.) to start playing by throwing the ball into the air and hitting it Who's serving? serve something She served an ace. See related entries: Tennis
  22. Word OriginMiddle English: from Old French servir, from Latin servire, from servus ‘slave’.Extra examples Cover and chill the salad until ready to serve. He served on active duty in the US Marine Corps. He served under John Major in the early 1990s. He served under President Reagan in the 1980s. He served with distinction in the First World War. I currently serve on the Board of Directors. I shall continue to serve as a trustee. If memory serves me right, we arrived on June 22, which was a Tuesday. Let us know how we can better serve your needs. Most of their economic policies are designed the serve the interests of big business. She has served in an advisory capacity for a number of groups. She is currently serving as special adviser to the American Ambassador. She served the family faithfully for many years. The Declaration served primarily as a propaganda piece. The sofa also serves as a bed. The texts ultimately serve as springboards for the artists’ imagination. They served a wonderful meal to more than 50 delegates. This old car has served me very well. This only served to complicate the situation further. This strategy has always served him well. to serve in the army/​military/​navy to serve on the committee/​jury/​panel How can we serve the needs of future generations? Most of their policies simply serve the interests of big businesses. Serve chilled. Serve with rice or potatoes. She served us a wonderful meal. The first chapter serves as a useful introduction to the subject. These experiments serve no useful purpose.Idioms
    first come, first served
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    (saying) people will be dealt with, seen, etc. strictly in the order in which they arrive Tickets are available on a first come, first served basis.
    if (my) memory serves me well, correctly, etc.
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    if I remember correctly
    it serves somebody right (for doing something)
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     used to say that something that has happened to somebody is their own fault and they deserve it Left you, did she? It serves you right for being so selfish.
    (British English) to be useful for a particular purpose or period of time (usually used in negative sentences) to support two opposing parties, principles, etc. at the same time
    Phrasal Verbsserve somethingoutserve somethingup
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: serve