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serve - definition and synonyms


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verb serve pronunciation in American English /sɜrv/
Word Forms
present tense
present participleserving
past tenseserved
past participleserved
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  1. 1
    [intransitive/transitive] to provide food and drink for someone to eat at a meal
    A light meal will be served during the flight.
    serve breakfast/lunch/dinner etc.: Dinner is served between 7 and 10 p.m.
    serve something with something: All dishes are served with a salad.
    serve something to someone: A complimentary afternoon snack is served to all guests.
    serve someone something: Carolyn served them iced tea on the front porch.
    serve someone with something: The waiter served them both with salmon poached in white wine.
    serve something hot/cold etc.: The cheese is best served at room temperature.
    1. a.



      serve up

      [intransitive/transitive] to put food onto a plate for someone
      We were served huge portions of spare ribs.
    2. b.
      [transitive] to be enough food for a particular number of people
      The recipe serves four as a light lunch.
  2. 2
    [intransitive/transitive] to do a job or to perform duties for a person or organization
    He served more than 20 years in the army.
    Frank has served this company his whole working life.
    serve as: Mr. Russell served as president of the Association for fifteen years.
    serve on: Henry served on numerous committees and commissions.
    serve in: I met my wife, Rachel, while serving in the Navy.
  3. 3
    [intransitive/transitive] to be used for a particular purpose, especially not the main or original purpose
    serve as: Their spare room also serves as an office.
    serve as a reminder/warning: The decision should serve as a warning to companies that pollute the environment.
    serve to remind/illustrate/emphasize/strengthen: His death serves to remind us just how dangerous using drugs can be.
  4. 4
    [transitive] to help to achieve something
    serve a purpose: That’s a stupid rule. What purpose is it supposed to serve?
    serve someone’s interests: They voted for a chairman who might better serve their interests.
    serve someone well: His ability to get along with people served him well in setting up his own business.
  5. 5
    [transitive] to spend time in prison
    serve time: She served time in the state prison for assaulting a police officer.
    serve a sentence: He’s serving a life sentence for murder.
  6. 6
    [transitive] to provide a group of people or an area with something useful
    These gas pipes serve the whole area.
    serve the needs of: a new hospital to serve the needs of the local community
  7. 8
    [transitive] legal to officially give someone a legal document that orders them to do something
    serve someone with something: She was served with a summons to appear in court.

phrasal verbs


a meal served in the evening which consists of foods traditionally eaten at breakfast

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