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serve / sərv/ • v. [tr.] 1. perform duties or services for (another person or an organization): Malcolm has served the church very faithfully. ∎  provide (an area or group of people) with a product or service: a telecommunications company that serves southern New England. ∎  [intr.] be employed as a member of the armed forces: a military engineer who served with the army. ∎  spend (a period) in office, in an apprenticeship, or in prison: he is serving a ten-year jail sentence. 2. present (food or drink) to someone: they serve wine instead of beer | [tr.] serve white wines chilled. ∎  present (someone) with food or drink: I'll serve you with coffee and cake | Peter served them generous portions of soup. ∎  (of food or drink) be enough for: the recipe serves four people. ∎  attend to (a customer in a store): she turned to serve the impatient customer. ∎  supply (goods) to a customer. ∎  [intr.] Christian Church act as a server at the celebration of the Eucharist. ∎  archaic play (a trick) on (someone): I remember the trick you served me. 3. Law deliver (a document such as a summons or writ) in a formal manner to the person to whom it is addressed: a warrant was served on Jack Sherman. ∎  deliver a document to (someone) in such a way: they were just about to serve him with a writ. 4. be of use in achieving or satisfying: this book will serve a useful purpose the union came into existence to serve the interests of musicians. ∎  [intr.] be of some specified use: the island's one pub serves as a café by day | sweat serves to cool down the body. ∎  [tr.] function for or treat (someone) in a specified way: the strategy served him well. ∎  (of a male breeding-animal) copulate with (a female). 5. [intr.] (in tennis and other racket sports) hit the ball or shuttlecock to begin play: he tossed the ball up to serve | [tr.] serve the ball onto the front wall. ∎  [tr.] (in tennis and other racket sports) begin play for each point in (a game). 6. Naut. bind (a rope) with thin cord to protect or strengthen it. 7. Mil. operate (a gun): before long Lodge was the only man in his section able to serve the guns. • n. (in tennis and other racket sports) an act or turn of hitting the ball or shuttlecock to start play: he was let down by an erratic serve. PHRASES: if my memory serves me if I remember correctly. serve at table act as a waiter. serve someone right be someone's deserved punishment or misfortune: it would serve you right if Jeff walked out on you. serve one's time (also serve out one's time) hold office for the normal period. ∎  (also serve time) spend time in office, in an apprenticeship, or in prison. serve two masters take orders from two superiors or follow two conflicting or opposing principles or policies at the same time. PHRASAL VERBS: serve out Tennis win the final game of a set or match while serving: Fitzgerald then served out for the set.

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serve be a servant (to). XIII; many deriv. uses from the same date. — (O)F. servir or L. servīre, f. L. servus slave.
So service1 condition or work of a servant. XII (serfise, seruise). — OF. servise, (also mod.) service, or — L. servītium slavery. serviceable XIV. — OF. serviette table napkin. XV. In earliest use only Sc. (seruiot, -iat, later seruit), since c.1800 re-adopted in gen. Eng. use with F. sp. — (O)F. serviette towel, napkin, f. servir; see -ETTE. servile pert. to a slave or to laborious or mechanical work XIV; of slavish character XVII. — L. servīlis. servitor †(man)servant XIV; †one who serves in war XVI; former class of exhibitioner at Oxford university XVII. — OF. servitor (mod. serviteur) — late L. servītor. servitude slavery XV; (Sc. leg.) subjection or subservience of property XVI. — (O)F. — L. servitūdō. servo- XIX, in servo-motor — F. servo-moteur auxiliary motor (see -O-).

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serve if you would be well served, serve yourself advice on the same lines as if you want a thing done well, do it yourself; recorded from the mid 17th century.
serve two masters take orders from two superiors or follow two conflicting or opposing principles or policies at the same time. With allusion to the biblical warning against trying to serve God and Mammon (Matthew 6:24).

See also first come, first served, you cannot serve God and Mammon, no man can serve two masters.

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