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).
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.
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.
"something proffered but not performed, service with the lips only; insincere profession of good will," 1640s, from lip (n.) + service (n.1). Earlier in same sense was lip-labour (1530s). This was a general pattern in 16c.-17c., for example lip-wisdom (1580s), the wisdom of those who do not practice what they preach; lip-religion (1590s), lip-devotion "prayer without genuine faith or desire" (c. 1600); lip-comfort (1630s).
1580s, "system of military discipline," from Latin militia "military service, warfare," from miles "soldier" (see military (adj.)). The sense of "citizen army" (as distinct from professional soldiers) is first recorded 1690s, perhaps from a sense in French cognate milice. Historically, the Anglo-Saxon forces that resisted the Vikings were militias, raised by counties. In U.S. history, by 1777 as "the whole body of men declared by law amenable to military service, without enlistment, whether armed and drilled or not" [Century Dictionary]. In early 19c. they were under control of the states, enrolled and drilled according to military law but not as regular soldiers, and called out periodically for drill and exercise and in emergency for actual service.