slave·​hold·​er ˈslāv-ˌhōl-dər How to pronounce slaveholder (audio)
variants or less commonly slave holder
plural slaveholders also slave holders
: someone who holds one or more people involuntarily and under threat of violence within a system of chattel slavery
In the teaching of American history, perhaps the most difficult lesson to convey is that slavery once held the entire country in its grip. It was not just the business of enslaved black people, slaveholders, or the South.Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields
Each slaveholder's inventoried listing of the number of human beings claimed as owned … was associated with their specific census data, and has, in this age of trillions of pages of digitized historic records, become a lamp shining light on the painful lost family history of many Black Americans.J. W. Sayles
By allowing Southern states to count their slaves … for purposes of representation, while denying those slaves all other civil or human rights, the Constitution granted slave holders magnified political power, while creating an incentive to acquire more slaves.Peter Sagal

called also slave owner

slaveholding adjective or noun
plural slaveholdings

Examples of slaveholder in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The series found that Hostin's mother's family were predominantly Spanish, and were slaveholders. Joey Nolfi,, 7 Feb. 2024 Following my virtual session, Crawley provided a list of next steps that included researching slaveholders in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where my grandmother grew up. Tracy Scott Forson, Smithsonian Magazine, 6 Feb. 2024 Hammons' story is representative of growing numbers of African Americans discovering their ties to white slaveholders through DNA tests and making claims to be included in their families. Daniel Gonzalez, The Arizona Republic, 26 Feb. 2024 The revelation that Hammons' ancestors appear to have been denied land willed to them by a wealthy slaveholder also adds to a growing push for reparations to help make up for the wealth Black descendants of enslaved people lost, Schermerhorn said. Daniel Gonzalez, The Arizona Republic, 26 Feb. 2024 In 1810, a group of men in New Paltz, Truth’s old stomping grounds, founded the Society for Negroes Unsettled, a slaveholders’ collective that pooled funds for members to hunt down their runaway slaves. Cynthia Greenlee, Smithsonian Magazine, 12 Feb. 2024 In the early 1800s, the town’s Afro-Colombian population was enslaved and forced to work through December, attending to slaveholders’ holiday festivities. Jaír F. Coll Genevieve Glatsky, New York Times, 30 Mar. 2023 Related Articles Johns Hopkins University plans to change title of English professorship named after Baltimore slave owner The report also says Jesuits at Loyola frequently rented slaves to maintain campus and residences from slaveholders in Baltimore. Dillon Mullan, Baltimore Sun, 18 Jan. 2024 Los Angeles Times Given the fact that George Berkeley was a slaveholder who also advocated for violence against Native American children, should UC Berkeley be renamed? Jenny Gold, Los Angeles Times, 10 May 2023

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

Word History

First Known Use

1769, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of slaveholder was in 1769

Dictionary Entries Near slaveholder

Cite this Entry

“Slaveholder.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


slave·​hold·​er ˈslāv-ˌhōl-dər How to pronounce slaveholder (audio)
: an owner of slaves
slaveholding adjective or noun

More from Merriam-Webster on slaveholder

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