Definition of servile in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈsəːvʌɪl/


1Having or showing an excessive willingness to serve or please others: bowing his head in a servile manner
More example sentences
  • Being good at service means that we are servile and demeans our noble island spirit.
  • What precedent is there for such servile bootlicking?
  • There will be several servile sycophants who will come forward as ‘White Knights’ to regain their lost positions.
obsequious, sycophantic, excessively deferential, subservient, fawning, toadying, ingratiating, unctuous, oily, oleaginous, greasy, grovelling, cringing, toadyish, slavish, abject, craven, humble, Uriah Heepish, self-abasing
informal slimy, bootlicking, smarmy, sucky, soapy, forelock-tugging
North American informal brown-nosing, apple-polishing
British vulgar slang arse-licking, bum-sucking
North American vulgar slang kiss-ass, ass-kissing
2Of or characteristic of a slave or slaves: the servile condition of the peasants
More example sentences
  • Even after having spent so many years in the servile conditions of the workhouse, and then the brothel, I still had the urge to say my piece, but I'd learnt that sometimes it was wiser not to.
  • Over 30 percent of MGM's cartoons released between 1946 and 1953 presented either characters in blackface or servile African American maids.
  • ‘This is really a question of listeners equating machines with human beings who are being understood to perform servile functions,’ she said.



Pronunciation: /ˈsəːvʌɪlli/
Example sentences
  • Sahnasius was widely seen in the republic of letters as having betrayed his own earlier principles of intellectual independence by becoming too servilely and effusively monarchist.
  • But Jonson also echoes Horace's warning against imitating servilely.


Late Middle English (in the sense 'suitable for a slave or for the working class'): from Latin servilis, from servus 'slave'.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: ser|vile

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.