Definition of servile in English:


Pronunciation /ˈsərˌvīl//ˈsərvəl/


  • 1Having or showing an excessive willingness to serve or please others.

    ‘bowing his head in a servile manner’
    • ‘It acts in the most servile manner as an agency of the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and NATO in the hope of gleaning a few crumbs from the tables of the imperialist powers.’
    • ‘The Somerive family, the product of a Romantic disregard for property, hope to regain their place in the Rayland line by means of their youngest son, Orlando, a character by turns romantic, naive, and servile.’
    • ‘It is not uncommon for a citizen in India to take off his shoes before entering the office of a policeman and genuflect in a lowly and servile manner.’
    • ‘It is a measure of how servile the media have become that, from the tabloids to the broadsheets, the results of a survey based on asking teenagers to report their participation in a range of illicit activities are taken at face value.’
    • ‘The character of Seneca thus finds just the right mixture of true compassion and the ranting of an alcoholic and sententious philosopher, whose servile disciples note down everything he says with ridiculous fury.’
    • ‘The servile journalists soon nicknamed him ‘Batka’, which in Belorussian means ‘father’.’
    • ‘Being good at service means that we are servile and demeans our noble island spirit.’
    • ‘There will be several servile sycophants who will come forward as ‘White Knights’ to regain their lost positions.’
    • ‘What precedent is there for such servile bootlicking?’
    obsequious, sycophantic, excessively deferential, subservient, fawning, toadying, ingratiating, unctuous, oily, oleaginous, greasy, grovelling, cringing, toadyish, slavish, abject, craven, humble, uriah heepish, self-abasing
    slimy, bootlicking, smarmy, sucky, soapy, forelock-tugging
    brown-nosing, apple-polishing
    arse-licking, bum-sucking
    kiss-ass, ass-kissing
    View synonyms
  • 2Of or characteristic of a slave or slaves.

    • ‘His wife is a disgruntled waitress at the same restaurant who chafes at the servile role her job demands.’
    • ‘‘This is really a question of listeners equating machines with human beings who are being understood to perform servile functions,’ she said.’
    • ‘Certainly, the sociological landscape is familiar - a nation in which an educated, privileged elite suppresses a servile, but restless underclass, giving rise to a growing insurrection.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He defined ‘slavery’ broadly to include all systems of servile labor.’
    • ‘It makes citizens passive, unproductive, and servile.’
    • ‘For decades into the 20th Century, the State of Alabama, for instance, ensured a steady supply of servile Black labour to ‘U.S. Steel’.’


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