ser·​vi·​tude | \ ˈsər-və-ˌtüd How to pronounce servitude (audio) , -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

Synonyms & Antonyms for servitude



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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 enslaved people who had made it to freedom in the North to a brutal life of servitude in the South
Recent Examples on the Web For many years, prosecutions based on alleged violations of the 13th Amendment — passed in 1865 to outlaw slavery and involuntary servitude — focused on peonage cases, the use of financial debt as a loophole to enslave workers. San Diego Union-Tribune, 3 July 2022 In the lawsuit, Planned Parenthood said the measure will have a disparate impact on women as opposed to men, and violates the right to bodily integrity, involuntary servitude, as well as the right to privacy. Kelly Mccleary, CNN, 27 June 2022 Some speak of robot slaves, artificial servants, AI servitude, and the like. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 21 June 2022 Teweret asks no long-term servitude of her subjects, and so Layla agrees to become the goddess’s avatar, so long as the possession is temporary. Lauren Puckett-pope, ELLE, 6 May 2022 Another who asked if involuntary servitude was racist. Roy S. Johnson |, al, 17 Mar. 2022 For instance, Boris Grekov, director of Moscow’s Russian History Institute, had seen his son sentenced to penal servitude and, in terror, made wide-ranging concessions to the Stalinist line, writing books and papers to order. Richard Cohen, Smithsonian Magazine, 18 Mar. 2022 The authorization of involuntary servitude for punishment of a crime was used to force many Blacks into labor after the end of slavery. Mike Cason |, al, 3 Mar. 2022 Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a free Black man tricked into servitude for Steve McQueen's uneasy-to-watch yet essential pre-Civil War drama. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 24 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of servitude

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for servitude

Middle English, "slavery, bondage, feudal allegiance," borrowed from Anglo-French & Late Latin; Anglo-French servitute, borrowed from Late Latin servitūdin-, servitūdō "condition of being a slave," from Latin servus "slave" + -i- -i- + -tūdin-, -tūdō -tude — more at serve entry 1

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

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Last Updated

25 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Servitude.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for servitude


ser·​vi·​tude | \ ˈsər-və-ˌtüd How to pronounce servitude (audio) , -ˌtyüd \

Kids Definition of servitude

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


ser·​vi·​tude | \ ˈsər-və-ˌtüd, -ˌtyüd How to pronounce servitude (audio) \

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.

More from Merriam-Webster on servitude

Nglish: Translation of servitude for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of servitude for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about servitude


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