bondage

noun

bond·​age ˈbän-dij How to pronounce bondage (audio)
plural bondages
1
: a state of being bound usually by compulsion (as of law): such as
a
: slavery, serfdom
Historically, the two most prevalent types of legal bondage were serfdom and chattel slavery.Michael Bush
More than 150 years after enslaved Africans and their descendants were released from bondage through ratification of the 13th Amendment, the slavery exception continues to permit the exploitation of labor by incarcerated individuals.Aaron Morrison
In the Thar desert of Pakistan, generations of families are trapped in debt bondage, forced to work for years in brick kilns to repay loans from the kiln owners.Isaiah Reynolds et al.
b
: servitude or subjugation to a controlling person or force
How can one company control the world's seed supply? When one gigantic corporate entity is allowed to block farmers from planting a seed without compensating that monopoly, the farmers are held in bondage to uncontrolled price increases.John Boyd
Do you have the freedom of self-control or are you in bondage to your desires?David Brooks
2
: sadomasochistic sexual practices involving the physical restraint of one partner

Examples of bondage in a Sentence

a population held in bondage
Recent Examples on the Web With the evening’s dress code including Hollister sweatshirts and bondage gear, the question made the city feel bigger and stranger. Chris Richards, Washington Post, 25 Feb. 2024 She’s then spotted ripping out her ex lover’s heart from his chest, SZA continues to stun by the end of the music video sans clothing while hanging from the ceiling in the Japanese rope bondage style of Shibari. Candace Cordelia, Essence, 21 Dec. 2023 In 2014, Barkas quit academia to become a professional rope bondage artist and educator. Hazlitt, 6 Dec. 2023 Jim’s worries for his own family, a wife and child he’s left behind in bondage, must be slotted into the spaces between the boy’s gabbing, his questions, his anxieties. Lauren Michele Jackson, The New Yorker, 26 Mar. 2024 The wrapping marks, cut into the clay like a memory made concrete, oscillate between signs of painful bondage and a warm embrace, a tension both social and artistic in 1970s Korean culture. Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, 15 Mar. 2024 After chronicling their perilous and frightening 45-day voyage, the author goes on to describe the sale of the 103 survivors of the journey to various enslavers in Alabama, their five years of bondage, and their hardscrabble lives following emancipation. Barbara Spindel, The Christian Science Monitor, 7 Mar. 2024 Roughly 97% reported experiencing some form of debt bondage or confiscation of documents. Los Angeles Times, 7 Nov. 2023 And at a time in Florida when books are being banned, schools are requiring permission slips for Black history events and the state’s educational standards say that enslaved Africans benefited from their bondage, their purpose has become even more critical. C. Isaiah Smalls Ii, Miami Herald, 1 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bondage.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from bonde customary tenant, from Middle English

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of bondage was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near bondage

Cite this Entry

“Bondage.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bondage. Accessed 23 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

bondage

noun
bond·​age ˈbän-dij How to pronounce bondage (audio)
: the state of being a slave or serf

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