Servile describes someone who is almost aggressively helpful, like a teacher’s pet who insists on bringing an apple every day even though the teacher doesn’t want it. To call someone servile is an insult.

To remember servile, think of the word servant — they both derive from the Latin servus, "enslaved person." The Servile Wars, for example, refer to slave revolts in the Roman Empire. These days, servile describes someone who is so eager to please that it makes you cringe. If you apologize when someone else steps on your foot, you’re being servile.

Definitions of servile

adj submissive or fawning in attitude or behavior

“spoke in a servile tone”
“the incurably servile housekeeper”
servile tasks such as floor scrubbing and barn work”
bootlicking, fawning, sycophantic, toadyish
attempting to win favor by flattery
attentive in an ingratiating or servile manner
slavish, submissive, subservient
abjectly submissive; characteristic of a slave or servant
suitable for a slave or servant
unservile, unsubmissive
not servile or submissive

adj relating to or involving slaves or appropriate for slaves or servants

“Brown's attempt at servile insurrection”
“the servile wars of Sicily”
servile work”
held in servitude

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