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From Middle English deserven, from Old French deservir, from Latin dēserviō, from dē- + serviō.



deserve (third-person singular simple present deserves, present participle deserving, simple past and past participle deserved)

  1. (transitive) To be entitled to, as a result of past actions; to be worthy to have.
    After playing so well, the team really deserved their win.
    After what he did, he deserved to go to prison.
    This argument deserves a closer examination.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), imprinted at London: By Robert Barker, [], OCLC 964384981, Job 11:6:
      God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.
    • (Can we date this quote by Thackeray and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      John Gay deserved to be a favourite.
    • 1967, The Pacific Reporter, page 510:
      the grantees named in the questioned deed executed by their father richly deserved receiving the family home.
    • 2008, Michael Walzer, Spheres Of Justice: A Defense Of Pluralism And Equality, page 24:
      Perhaps they do, but they don't deserve that the rest of us contribute money or appropriate public funds for the purchase of pictures and the construction of buildings.
  2. (obsolete) To earn, win.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, III.vii:
      That gentle Lady, whom I loue and serue, / After long suit and weary seruicis, / Did aske me, how I could her loue deserue, / And how she might be sure, that I would neuer swerue.
  3. (obsolete) To reward, to give in return for service.
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, chapter xxx, in Le Morte Darthur, book VIII:
      Gramercy saide the kynge / & I lyue sir Lambegus I shal deserue hit / And thenne sir Lambegus armed hym / and rode after as fast as he myghte
    • 1603?, William Shakespeare, Othello:
      Pray you, lead on. At every house I'll call; / I may command at most. Get weapons, ho! / And raise some special officers of night. / On, good Roderigo: I'll deserve your pains.
  4. (obsolete) To serve; to treat; to benefit.
    • (Can we date this quote by Massinger and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      A man that hath / So well deserved me.

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Further reading[edit]

  • deserve at OneLook Dictionary Search
  • deserve in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911.