\ ˈslāv How to pronounce slave (audio) \

Definition of slave

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1 : a person held in servitude as the chattel of another
2 : one that is completely subservient to a dominating influence
3 : a device (such as the printer of a computer) that is directly responsive to another


slaved; slaving

Definition of slave (Entry 2 of 4)

intransitive verb

1 : to work like a slave : drudge
2 : to traffic in slaves

transitive verb

1 : to make directly responsive to another mechanism
2 archaic : enslave



Definition of slave (Entry 3 of 4)

1a : of, relating to, involving, or used for slaves or slavery slave traders a slave auction slave owners a slave economy Many authentic slave narratives were influenced by Harriet Beecher Stowe; on the other hand, authentic slave narratives were among Stowe's primary sources for her own imaginative work, Uncle Tom's Cabin.— Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
b : held in or forced into servitude : enslaved born of slave parents slave workers
c : favoring or legally permitting slavery a slave territory the slave states
2 : operated by remote control the device now tucked away behind the dials isn't properly a clockwork but a … slave unit activated by an electric clock inside the bankThe New Yorker specifically : responding to manipulation of the master controls of an apparatus There's also provision for attaching external slave flash units for greater flash range when using print film. — Herbert Keppler … had the ultimate compact-disc system—a master machine and four optional slave machines—that will load and play 250 discs altogether … — William D. Marbach


geographical name
\ ˈslāv How to pronounce Slave (audio) \

Definition of Slave (Entry 4 of 4)

river 258 miles (415 kilometers) long in Canada flowing from the western end of Lake Athabasca north into Great Slave Lake

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Examples of slave in a Sentence

Noun He's a slave to fashion trends. Do it yourself! I'm not your slave! Verb I slaved all morning to get the work done on time. She's been slaving away at her homework.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The negative connotations of 'cotton pickers' stem from America's history with slave labor and the systems of oppression that followed and continue to plague the nation today. Analis Bailey, USA TODAY, "'Cotton Pickers' latest battle in team mascot debate across sports," 1 Jan. 2021 Olbermann’s call for the arrest of Trump and Carlson comes days after deleting and apologizing for a tweet likening the president to an African slave. Andrew Mark Miller, Washington Examiner, "Keith Olbermann calls for the arrests of Trump and Tucker Carlson," 6 Nov. 2020 Awash with slave labor, the Emperor would likely see no need to develop machines to replace Rome’s exploited workforce. Addison Nugent, Popular Mechanics, "Why Heron's Aeolipile Is One of History's Greatest Forgotten Machines," 29 Nov. 2020 As chattel slavery became a core economic engine in the colonies, some tribes, including the Creek, also capitalized on slave labor. NBC News, "The Black Native American descendants fighting for the right to belong," 20 Nov. 2020 The city was founded around 1850 as a cotton-producing capital of the South that relied on slave labor. Leah Willingham, Star Tribune, "Mississippi city won't lose lights after threat over debt," 30 Oct. 2020 The project is part of a nationwide effort at places like Monticello and Charleston’s McLeod plantation to take a more honest look at the slave labor that made such places possible. Christina Tkacik,, "The life and coat of Tilghman Davis, who drove for the same Maryland family in slavery and freedom," 22 Oct. 2020 The Guardian broke the story on Thai shrimp industry slave labor five years ago. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "There’s No Such Thing as Ethical Grocery Shopping," 1 Oct. 2020 The case, due to be heard in December, revolves around allegations that the U.S. company Cargill and the American branch of Nestle had allowed the use of child slave labor on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast. Washington Post, "How the U.S. Supreme Court affects the world," 24 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The attachment comes with three blades for slicing, fine shredding, and course shredding, and with this tool in their kitchen, your recipient will never have to slave over a box grater again. Camryn Rabideau, USA TODAY, "25 best kitchen gifts to buy from Wayfair," 3 Nov. 2020 This payout was a massive 40% of the government's budget and required many bonds to slave owners to effectuate the law. Matthew Brown, USA TODAY, "Fact check: United Kingdom finished paying off debts to slave-owning families in 2015," 1 July 2020 Crime, Policing and Justice Minister Kit Malthouse called Monday for those responsible for toppling the bronze memorial to slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol to be prosecuted. Brian Dakss, CBS News, "Live updates: George Floyd memorials reach his hometown of Houston," 8 June 2020 Southern police departments can also trace their genealogy to slave patrols, which helped maintain the institution of slavery before the Civil War with the full force of government power. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "The Police Were a Mistake," 2 June 2020 As the industry navigates the complicated issue, children continue to slave in dangerous mines for pennies of what the industry makes for the sparkly cosmetics. Lexy Lebsack,, "The Makeup Industry’s Darkest Secret Is Hiding In Your Makeup Bag," 31 May 2020 Contrasting images of the upstart slaving-kingdom of Dahomey reached Enlightenment Europe. Felipe Fernández-armesto, WSJ, "‘A Fistful of Shells’ Review: Buyers, Sellers and Rulers," 18 Feb. 2020 Many are just a jumble of arms slaving away on a production line. The Economist, "Biological robots A research team builds robots from living cells," 18 Jan. 2020 There was no hiding the squalid remnants of a slaving voyage, and Foster risked the death penalty if caught. National Geographic, "," 16 Jan. 2020

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1602, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2


1576, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

History and Etymology for slave


Middle English sclave, from Anglo-French or Medieval Latin; Anglo-French esclave, from Medieval Latin sclavus, from Sclavus Slav; from the frequent enslavement of Slavs in central Europe during the early Middle Ages

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Time Traveler for slave

Time Traveler

The first known use of slave was in the 14th century

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Statistics for slave

Last Updated

16 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Slave.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for slave


How to pronounce Slave (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of slave

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: someone who is legally owned by another person and is forced to work for that person without pay
disapproving : a person who is strongly influenced and controlled by something



English Language Learners Definition of slave (Entry 2 of 2)

: to work very hard


\ ˈslāv How to pronounce slave (audio) \

Kids Definition of slave

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a person who is owned by another person and can be sold at the owner's will
2 : a person who is strongly influenced and controlled by something a slave to fashion
3 : drudge


slaved; slaving

Kids Definition of slave (Entry 2 of 2)

: to work very hard, for long hours, or under difficult conditions … I could only see myself slaving … in the tobacco fields.— Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped

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