Word Origin & History
late 12c., "to render habitual obedience to," from O.Fr. servir "to serve," from L. servire "to serve," originally "be a slave," related to servus "slave," perhaps from an Etruscan word (cf. Etruscan proper names Servi, Serve). Meaning "to attend to (a customer)" is first recorded mid-14c.; that of "to
set food on (a table)" is from late 14c. Sporting sense, in tennis, badminton, etc., first recorded 1585; the noun in this sense is from 1680s. To serve (someone) right "to treat as he deserves" is recorded from 1580s. To serve the time "shape one's views to what is in favor" is from 1550s, translating L. tempori servire; time-server first recorded 1580s.