serve (v.)

late 12c., serven, "to render habitual obedience to, owe allegiance to," also "minister, give aid, give help," from Old French servir "to do duty toward, show devotion to; set table, serve at table; offer, provide with," from Latin servire "be a servant, be in service, be enslaved;" figuratively "be devoted; be governed by; comply with; conform; flatter," originally "be a slave," related to servus "slave," which is of uncertain origin.

Perhaps from Etruscan (compare Etruscan proper names Servi, Serve, Latinized as Servius), but de Vaan says it is from Proto-Italic *serwo- "shepherd," *serwā- "observation," from PIE *seruo- "guardian" (source also of Avestan haraiti "heeds, protects"):

Rix 1994a argues that the original meaning of *serwo- probably was 'guard, shepherd', which underwent a pejorative development to 'slave' in Italy between 700 and 450 BC. Servire would be the direct derivative of servus, hence 'be a slave'; servare would in his view be derived from an older noun *serwa- or *serwom 'observation, heedance'.

It is attested by c. 1200 in widespread senses: "to be in the service of, perform a service for; attend or wait upon, be personal servant to; be a slave; owe allegiance to; officiate at Mass or other religious rites;" from early 13c. as "set food at table;" mid-14c. as "to wait on (customers)."

From late 14c. as "treat (someone or something) in some fashion." To serve (someone) right "treat as he deserves" is recorded from 1580s. Sense of "be useful, be beneficial, be suitable for a purpose or function" is from early 14c.; that of "take the place or meet the needs of, be equal to the task" is from late 14c.; that of "suffice" is from mid-15c.

The meaning "render active military service" is from 1510s. The sporting sense is attested by 1580s, first in tennis. The legal sense of "present" (a writ, warrant, etc.), "give legal notice of" is from early 15c. To serve hand and foot "minister to attentively" is by c. 1300.

He no schuld neuer wond
To seruen him fro fot to hond
["Amis and Amiloun," c. 1330]

serve (n.)

1680s, in sports (originally tennis), "act of the first player in striking the ball, or the style in which the ball is delivered," from serve (v.). Service in the same sense is attested from 1610s.

Definitions of serve
serve (v.)
serve a purpose, role, or function;
His freedom served him well
The tree stump serves as a table
This table would serve very well
The female students served as a control group
Synonyms: function
serve (v.)
do duty or hold offices; serve in a specific function;
She served in Congress for two terms
He served as head of the department for three years
serve (v.)
contribute or conduce to;
The scandal served to increase his popularity
serve (v.)
be used by; as of a utility;
The garage served to shelter his horses
The sewage plant served the neighboring communities
Synonyms: service
serve (v.)
help to some food; help with food or drink;
I served him three times, and after that he helped himself
Synonyms: help
serve (v.)
provide (usually but not necessarily food);
The entertainers served up a lively show
We serve meals for the homeless
Synonyms: serve up / dish out / dish up / dish
serve (v.)
devote (part of) one's life or efforts to, as of countries, institutions, or ideas;
She served the art of music
He served the church
serve the country
serve (v.)
promote, benefit, or be useful or beneficial to;
The lake serves recreation
The President's wisdom has served the country well
Their interests are served
Art serves commerce
Synonyms: serve well
serve (v.)
spend time in prison or in a labor camp;
Synonyms: do
serve (v.)
work for or be a servant to;
The minister served the King for many years
May I serve you?
Synonyms: attend to / wait on / attend / assist
serve (v.)
deliver a warrant or summons to someone;
Synonyms: process / swear out
serve (v.)
be sufficient; be adequate, either in quality or quantity;
Nothing else will serve
Synonyms: suffice / do / answer
serve (v.)
do military service;
My sons never served, because they are short-sighted
She served in Vietnam
serve (v.)
mate with;
male animals serve the females for breeding purposes
Synonyms: service
serve (v.)
put the ball into play;
It was Agassi's turn to serve
serve (n.)
(sports) a stroke that puts the ball in play;
his powerful serves won the game
Synonyms: service