Meaning of “serve” in the English Dictionary

"serve" in British English

See all translations

serveverb

uk /sɜːv/ us /sɝːv/

serve verb (PROVIDE FOOD/DRINK)

A2 [ I or T ] to provide food or drinks:

Do they serve meals in the bar?
Breakfast is served in the restaurant between 7.00 and 11.00.
We arrived at the hotel and were served with champagne and canapés.
All recipes in this book, unless otherwise stated, will serve (= be enough for) four to five people.

More examples

serve verb (WORK)

C1 [ I or T ] to work for; to do your duty to:

He served in the army for 22 years.
She has served on the committee for the last 15 years.
He served under Ronald Reagan as Secretary of State.

More examples

serve verb (HELP ACHIEVE)

C1 [ I or T ] to help achieve something or to be useful as something:

An official investigation would not serve any useful purpose.
The judge said that the fine would serve as a warning to other drivers.
In the absence of anything better the settee could serve as a bed for a couple of nights.
[ + to infinitive ] Nothing serves to explain the violent fighting we have seen recently.
old-fashioned My umbrella will serve for a weapon.

More examples

serve verb (DEAL WITH CUSTOMER)

B1 [ T ] in a shop, restaurant, or hotel, to deal with a customer by taking their order, showing or selling them goods, etc.:

UK Are you being served, madam?
US Have you been served, ma'am?
That's the restaurant where they refused to serve John because he was so rude.

serve verb (HIT BALL)

[ I or T ] in sports such as tennis, to hit the ball to the other player as a way of starting the game:

Whose turn is it to serve?
That's the third ace you've served this game.

serve verb (GIVE DOCUMENT)

[ T ] specialized law to give a legal document to someone, demanding that they go to a law court or that they obey an order:

Less than two weeks ago Gough finally served a writ on Slater, claiming damages for alleged loss of royalties.
Each person served with a summons will be given six weeks before they have to appear in the Magistrates' Court.

servenoun [ C ]

uk /sɜːv/ us /sɝːv/ also service

in sports such as tennis, the act of hitting the ball to the other player to start play:

It's your serve.
Murray broke Federer's serve (= he won a game in which Federer hit the ball first).

(Definition of “serve” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"serve" in American English

See all translations

serveverb

us /sɜrv/

serve verb (HELP)

[ I/T ] (esp. of a person working in a restaurant or store) to help a customer by getting what someone needs or by showing or selling goods, or to provide food or drinks to a customer or guest:

[ T ] We’ve been in the restaurant for half an hour and we’re still waiting to be served.
[ T ] Breakfast is served between seven and nine every morning.
[ I/T ] We’ll be ready to serve (lunch) soon.

[ I/T ] To serve is also to provide an area or group of people with something that is needed:

[ T ] As long as I am your representative, I will continue to serve the needs of this community.

serve verb (WORK)

[ I/T ] to work for, or to carry out your duty:

[ I ] He served in the US Navy for twelve years.
[ T ] If memory serves me right (= If I am remembering correctly), I was 13 at the time.

serve verb (SPEND TIME)

[ T ] to spend a period of time in a job or activity:

He served three terms in the senate.

serve verb (HELP ACHIEVE)

[ I/T ] to help achieve something, or to be useful as something:

[ + to infinitive ] Tougher prison sentences, he said, will serve to deter crime.
[ I ] The sofa can serve as (= be used as) a bed for a couple of nights.

serve verb (HIT BALL)

[ I/T ] (in tennis and other sports) to hit the ball to the other player or team as a way of starting play

servenoun [ C ]

/sɜrv/

serve noun [ C ] (HITTING BALL)

(in tennis and other sports) the act of hitting the ball to the other player or team to start play :

He's got a powerful serve.

(Definition of “serve” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"serve" in Business English

See all translations

serveverb

uk /sɜːv/ us

[ T ] to provide people or a place with products or services or something that is needed:

There is a new 24-hour bus that serves the airport.

[ I or T ] to help achieve something or to be useful as something:

serve to do sth The new procedures serve to stop economic growth.
The phone application needs to serve a purpose.

[ T ] COMMERCE in a shop, restaurant, or hotel, to deal with a customer by taking their order, showing or selling them goods, etc.:

She spends all day on the shop floor serving customers.
Are you being served?

[ I or T ] to provide food or drinks:

He was served dinner in his room.
Breakfast is served between 7 and 9.

[ I or T ] to spend time doing a job, training for a job, or having a responsibility:

serve as sth He became a city commissioner and went on to serve as mayor.
After serving an apprenticeship with his father, he received a scholarship to study in Italy.

[ T ] LAW to give a legal document to someone, demanding that they go to a court of law or that they obey an order:

The pension trustees served a writ last Friday in New York.
serve sb with sth She was served with a summons to court.

Phrasal verb(s)

(Definition of “serve” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)