c. 1100, "celebration of public religious worship according to prescribed forms or methods," from Old French servise "act of homage; servitude; service at table; Mass, church ceremony," from Latin servitium (in Medieval Latin also servicium) "slavery, condition of a slave, servitude," also "slaves collectively" (in Medieval Latin "service"), from servus "slave" (see serve (v.)).
The meaning "act of serving, occupation of an attendant servant" is attested from c. 1200, as is that of "assistance, help; a helpful act." From c. 1300 as "provision of food; sequence of dishes served in a meal;" from late 14c. as "service at table, attendance during a meal." The sense of "the furniture of the table" (tea service, etc.) is from mid-15c.
Meanings "state of being bound to undertake tasks for someone or at someone's direction" and "labor performed or undertaken for another" are mid-13c. The sense of "service or employment in a court or administration" is from c. 1300, as is that of "military service (especially by a knight); employment as a soldier;" hence "the military as an occupation" (1706).
The meaning "the supplying of electricity, water, gas, etc., for domestic use" is by 1879; later extended to broadcasting (1927), etc. The meaning "expert care or assistance given by manufacturers or dealers to the purchasers of their goods" is by 1919. Service industry (as distinct from production) is attested from 1938; service there indicates the section of the economy that supplies consumer needs but makes no tangible goods (a sense attested by 1936). Service-charge is attested by 1929. A service station originally was a gas stop that also repaired cars.
At your service as a phrase of politeness is attested by c. 1600. Service-book, containing forms for public worship, is attested from 1570s. Also in Middle English, service was "the devotion or suit of a lover" (late 14c.), and "sexual intercourse, conjugal relations" (mid-15c.; service of Venus, or flesh's service).
1650s, from Dutch gas, probably from Greek khaos "empty space" (see chaos). The sound of Dutch "g" is roughly equivalent to that of Greek "kh." First used by Flemish chemist J.B. van Helmont (1577-1644), probably influenced by Paracelsus, who used khaos in an occult sense of "proper elements of spirits" or "ultra-rarified water," which was van Helmont's definition of gas.
Hunc spiritum, incognitum hactenus, novo nomine gas voco ("This vapor, hitherto unknown, I call by a new name, 'gas.'") [Helmont, Ortus Medicinae]
Modern scientific sense began 1779, with later secondary specialization to "combustible mix of vapors" (1794, originally coal gas); "anesthetic" (1894, originally nitrous oxide); and "poison gas" (1900). Meaning "intestinal vapors" is from 1882. "The success of this artificial word is unique" [Weekley]. Slang sense of "empty talk" is from 1847; slang meaning "something exciting or excellent" first attested 1953, from earlier hepster slang gasser in the same sense (1944). Gas also meant "fun, a joke" in Anglo-Irish and was used so by Joyce (1914). Gas-works is by 1817. Gas-oven is from 1851 as a kitchen appliance; gas-stove from 1848.
type of tree native to continental Europe; also the fruit or berry of it, 1520s, servyse, serves, an extended form of earlier serve "the service tree" (perhaps via Middle English plural serves being taken as a singular), from Old English syrfe, Old French sorbe, both of which are from Vulgar Latin *sorbea, from Latin sorbus (see sorb). Service-berry is attested from 1570s; service-tree by c. 1600.
1893, "to provide with service," from service (n.1). Middle English servisen was "to serve (someone) as a knight or retainer" (c. 1300), from the noun, but it seems to have died with the feudal system and the modern verb likely is a re-coinage. Meaning "perform routine maintenance work on" is by 1926. Related: Serviced; servicing.
According to Wiktionary, "The verb sense derives from the 1938 stage play Gas Light, in which a husband attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment."
"the executive branch of the public service," as distinguished from the military, naval, legislative, or judicial, 1765, originally in reference to non-military staff of the East India Company, from civil in the sense "not military." Civil servant is from 1792.