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[sur-vil, -vahyl] /ˈsɜr vɪl, -vaɪl/
slavishly submissive or obsequious; fawning:
servile flatterers.
characteristic of, proper to, or customary for slaves; abject:
servile obedience.
yielding slavishly; truckling (usually followed by to).
extremely imitative, especially in the arts; lacking in originality.
being in slavery; oppressed.
of, relating to, or involving slaves or servants.
of or relating to a condition of servitude or property ownership in which a person is held as a slave or as partially enslaved:
medieval rebellions against servile laws.
Origin of servile
1350-1400; Middle English < Latin servīlis, equivalent to serv- (stem of servīre to be a slave) + -īlis -ile
Related forms
servilely, adverb
servility, servileness, noun
nonservile, adjective
nonservilely, adverb
nonservileness, noun
overservile, adjective
overservilely, adverb
overservileness, noun
overservility, noun
pseudoservile, adjective
pseudoservilely, adverb
unservile, adjective
unservilely, adverb
1, 2. cringing, sycophantic. Servile, menial, obsequious, slavish characterize one who behaves like a slave or an inferior. Servile suggests cringing, fawning, and abject submission: servile responses to questions. Menial applies to that which is considered undesirable drudgery: the most menial tasks. Obsequious implies the ostentatious subordination of oneself to the wishes of another, either from fear or from hope of gain: an obsequious waiter. Slavish stresses the dependence and labori-ous toil of one who follows or obeys without question: slavish attentiveness to orders. 2. mean, base, low.
1. aggressive. 2. exalted. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for servilely
Historical Examples
  • I never entertained the fear that in this way of proceeding I should be in danger of servilely copying my predecessors.

    Caleb Williams William Godwin
  • And the words and her attitude recalled that other time she was servilely at his feet.

    The Way of the Gods John Luther Long
  • I copied the best masters, at first servilely, afterward more freely, and at last I joined habit and invention.

  • "I can fix anything like that, Mr. Cowperwood," he replied, servilely.

    The Financier Theodore Dreiser
  • Spite of himself, he is filled with awe at its approach, and servilely bends before it as it passes him.

  • Most of these novelties were servilely copied from French aviation.

    Georges Guynemer Henry Bordeaux
  • If I made your bust I should be servilely attached to these things which are everything to me because they are something of you.

    The Red Lily, Complete Anatole France
  • Must Ireland have no character of its own but be servilely imitative of its neighbor in all things and be nothing of itself?

    Imaginations and Reveries (A.E.) George William Russell
  • It was her nature, as we have said, servilely to copy others.

  • They rebelliously reject the plain commands of God, and yet servilely cringe to the humours and caprices of their fellow-men.

    The Expositor's Bible: Alfred Plummer
British Dictionary definitions for servilely


obsequious or fawning in attitude or behaviour; submissive
of or suitable for a slave
existing in or relating to a state of slavery
when postpositive, foll by to. submitting or obedient
Derived Forms
servilely, adverb
servility (sɜːˈvɪlɪtɪ), servileness, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Latin servīlis, from servus slave
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for servilely



late 14c., from Latin servilis "of a slave" (as in Servile Wars, name given to the slave revolts in the late Roman Republic), also "slavish, servile," from servus "slave" (see serve (v.)). Earliest sense was legal, servile work being forbidden on the Sabbath; sense of "cringing, fawning" first recorded c.1600.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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