ser·​vi·​tude | \ˈsər-və-ˌtüd, -ˌtyüd\

Definition of servitude 

1 : a condition in which one lacks liberty especially to determine one's course of action or way of life

2 : a right by which something (such as a piece of land) owned by one person is subject to a specified use or enjoyment by another

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Synonyms & Antonyms for servitude


bondage, enslavement, servility, slavery, thrall, thralldom (or thraldom), yoke


freedom, liberty

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Did You Know?

Servitude is slavery or anything resembling it. The entire black population of colonial America lived in permanent servitude. And millions of the whites who populated this country arrived in "indentured servitude", obliged to pay off the cost of their journey with several years of labor. Servitude comes in many forms, of course: in the bad old days of the British navy, it was said that the difference between going to sea and going to jail was that you were less likely to drown in jail.

Examples of servitude in a Sentence

the Fugitive Slave Act had the effect of returning slaves who had made it to freedom in the North to a brutal life of servitude in the South

Recent Examples on the Web

Even the members of our community who claim no religious affiliation are familiar with the Biblical narratives that tell of the ancient Israelites fleeing slavery, servitude and oppression in Egypt. Rabbi Asher Knight - Special To The Observer Editorial Board, charlotteobserver, "Republicans are abusing religion to defend their abuse of children," 19 June 2018 Worry Free, founded by Steve Lift, a Silicon Valley libertarian tech-bro visionary dirtbag (played by Armie Hammer, perhaps too perfectly for his own good), offers desperate people guaranteed food and shelter in exchange for lifetime servitude. New York Times, "Review: ‘Sorry to Bother You,’ but Can I Interest You in a Wild Dystopian Satire?," 2 July 2018 The Israelites were ambivalent about leaving their servitude behind and more than once expressed a yearning to return to it. William A. Galston, WSJ, "The Perpetual Battle for Freedom," 3 Apr. 2018 One of the most common mistakes made every year is exchanging free will for servitude to ADP. Michael Beller,, "Tips to Help You Ace Any Fantasy Football Draft," 4 July 2018 Davidson police obtained additional warrants and Luong and Tsi were charged with human trafficking, involuntary servitude and conspiracy, officials said. Lavendrick Smith, charlotteobserver, "Duo accused of human trafficking at NC salon stabbed woman with tools, warrants say," 29 June 2018 Much of The Handmaid’s Tale centers around how the United States became the extremist state of Gilead, a country enforcing hierarchal servitude in the wake of a fertility crisis. Alexis Dent, Harper's BAZAAR, "We Are Gilead," 26 June 2018 Cheerleading embraces the athleticism and craft of the sport, becoming more stand-alone tumbling and gymnastics than a lesson in home-ec servitude and short skirts. Washington Post, "The Redskins cheerleaders cheer on the home team and urge them to fight. Now they’ve got to fight for themselves.," 5 May 2018 The report also describes the challenges of domestic servitude in the households of diplomats based abroad, who have immunity. Carol Morello, Washington Post, "State Department decries institutionalization of children," 28 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'servitude.' 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 servitude

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for servitude

Middle English, from Anglo-French servitute, from Latin servitudo slavery, from servus slave

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Statistics for servitude

Last Updated

8 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for servitude

The first known use of servitude was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for servitude



English Language Learners Definition of servitude

: the condition of being a slave or of having to obey another person


ser·​vi·​tude | \ˈsər-və-ˌtüd, -ˌtyüd\

Kids Definition of servitude

: the condition of being a slave or of having to obey another


ser·​vi·​tude | \ˈsər-və-ˌtüd, -ˌtyüd \

Legal Definition of servitude 

1 : a condition in which an individual lacks liberty especially to determine his or her course of action or way of life specifically : the state of being a slave involuntary servitude

2 : a right by which property owned by one person is subject to a specified use or enjoyment of another used chiefly in the civil law of Louisiana — see also dominant estate and servient estate at estate sense 4 — compare easement

apparent servitude

: a predial servitude whose existence is perceivable by exterior signs or works (as an aqueduct or road) on the property

legal servitude

: a predial servitude that is created by a limitation under the law on the use of the property

natural servitude

: a predial servitude that arises from the situation of the estates (as from one being situated downhill from another)

personal servitude

: a servitude that burdens property in favor of a specific named person — see also right of use, usufruct

predial servitude

: a servitude that burdens one item of immovable property (as a tract of land) in favor of another

Note: A predial servitude is transferred along with the ownership of the dominant estate, and the servient estate is always taken subject to the servitude. A predial servitude cannot be transferred separately from the dominant estate.

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Comments on servitude

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a nest or breeding place

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