1. One who serves at a table, as in a restaurant.
2. A tray or salver.
Usage Note: Though waitress is still widely used as a term for a woman who waits on tables at a restaurant, various gender-neutral alternatives exist, including waitperson, waitron, plain waiter, and server. Some of these (such as waitperson and waitron) have failed to gain widespread support, but both waiter and server have become very common and are widely accepted. As of our 2017 survey, 40 percent of the Usage Panel stated that they still personally preferred waitress, 18 percent preferred waiter, and 22 percent said they preferred some other term, with server being by far the most preferred alternative. (Some 20 percent reported no preference at all.) Given the ongoing trend away from explicitly gendered words in English, which has seen the general abandonment of such terms as poetess, aviatrix, and comedienne, it seems likely that waiter and server will continue to gain ground against waitress until one or the other of those terms eventually becomes the new default choice for most people.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.