The semantic extension of「服」is in the following sequence:
- Submission, subdue, or serve
- Servant clothing or uniform
These meanings were found in Chinese before importation into Japanese. Compare similar English words using terms of clothing to describe the status of a person (blue-collar, white-collar).
「服」(submission) can be seen as representing a similar or identical word to「伏」(prostrate, bend down); they are both Baxter-Sagart OC: /*[b]ək/ > Kan-on: ふく.
「服」was originally「𠬝」(that is, without the left hand side component).
「𠬝」was originally a picture of a hand「又」subduing a kneeling person「卩」.
Semantic「凡」was added later, bringing out the meaning of to serve.
The third form above contains「舟」, and the fourth form contains「⺼・肉」; these changes should be considered as graphical corruptions of「凡」.
「凡」originally depicted a large tray used for carrying things or people, now written as「盤」or「槃」, which also contains the corrupted「凡」in the form of「舟」on the top left. The meaning general, common of「凡」is a phonetic loan.