pe·​on·​age | \ ˈpē-ə-nij How to pronounce peonage (audio) \

Definition of peonage

1a : the use of laborers bound in servitude because of debt
b : a system of convict labor by which convicts are leased to contractors
2 : the condition of a peon

Examples of peonage in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

The percentage of sharecroppers and tenant farmers tripled, until nearly one family in three was reduced to peonage, working for someone else—working just to live. Kevin Baker, Harper's magazine, "Where Our New World Begins," 10 May 2019 This is where the system of debt peonage really emerges in the South, as a way of controlling African Americans from Reconstruction and until the 1950s. Gaby Del Valle, Vox, "The Sears catalog brought city goods to the country. It also unintentionally combatted white supremacy.," 19 Oct. 2018 They can not be extricated from the theory that a class of people carry peonage in their blood. Michael Harriot, The Root, "We Were 8 Years in Power Moves Ta-Nehisi Coates to Top of Black America’s Draft Board," 2 Oct. 2017 Eight states passed laws disenfranchising the urban poor, and the new state of California prohibited slavery but established the practice of peonage on Native Americans that denied them political rights. Time Staff, Time, "7 Things People Get Wrong About American History," 26 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'peonage.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of peonage

1844, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Last Updated

22 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for peonage

The first known use of peonage was in 1844

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More Definitions for peonage


pe·​on·​age | \ ˈpē-ə-nij How to pronounce peonage (audio) \

Legal Definition of peonage

: labor in a condition of servitude to extinguish a debt the holding of any person to service or labor under the system known as peonage is abolished and forever prohibitedU.S. Code

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appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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