v. & n.
v. 1 tr. do a service for (a person, community, etc.). 2 tr. (also absol.) be a servant to. 3 intr. carry out duties (served on six committees). 4 intr. a (foll. by in) be employed in (an organization, esp. the armed forces, or a place, esp. a foreign country) (served in the air force). b be a member of the armed forces. 5 a tr. be useful to or serviceable for; meet the needs of; do what is required for (serve a purpose; one packet serves him for a week). b intr. meet requirements; perform a function (a sofa serving as a bed). c intr. (foll. by to + infin.) avail, suffice (his attempt served only to postpone the inevitable; it serves to show the folly of such action). 6 tr. go through a due period of (office, apprenticeship, a prison sentence, etc.). 7 tr. set out or present (food) for those about to eat it (asparagus served with butter; dinner was then served). 8 intr. (in full serve at table) act as a waiter. 9 tr. a attend to (a customer in a shop). b (foll. by with) supply with (goods) (was serving a customer with apples; served the town with gas). 10 tr. treat or act towards (a person) in a specified way (has served me shamefully; you may serve me as you will). 11 tr. a (often foll. by on) deliver (a writ etc.) to the person concerned in a legally formal manner (served a warrant on him). b (foll. by with) deliver a writ etc. to (a person) in this way (served her with a summons). 12 tr. Tennis etc. a (also absol.) deliver (a ball etc.) to begin or resume play. b produce (a fault etc.) by doing this. 13 tr. Mil. keep (a gun, battery, etc.) firing. 14 tr. (of an animal, esp. a stallion etc. hired for the purpose) copulate with (a female). 15 tr. distribute (served the ammunition out; served the rations round). 16 tr. render obedience to (a deity etc.). 17 Eccl. a intr. act as a server. b tr. act as a server at (a service). 18 intr. (of a tide) be suitable for a ship to leave harbour etc. 19 tr. Naut. bind (a rope etc.) with thin cord to strengthen it. 20 tr. play (a trick etc.) on.
n. 1 Tennis etc. a the act or an instance of serving. b a manner of serving. c a person's turn to serve. 2 Austral. sl. a reprimand. it will serve it will be adequate. serve one's needs (or need) be adequate. serve out retaliate on. serve the purpose of take the place of, be used as. serve a person right be a person's deserved punishment or misfortune. serve one's time 1 hold office for the normal period. 2 (also serve time) undergo imprisonment, apprenticeship, etc. serve one's (or the) turn be adequate. serve up offer for acceptance.
[ ME f. OF servir f. L servire f. servus slave ]