slav·​ery | \ ˈslā-v(ə-)rē How to pronounce slavery (audio) \

Definition of slavery

1a : the practice of slaveholding
b : the state of a person who is a chattel of another
2 : submission to a dominating influence
3 : drudgery, toil

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Synonyms & Antonyms for slavery


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


freedom, liberty

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Examples of slavery in a Sentence

She was sold into slavery. a child born into slavery was considered simply another addition to the master's wealth and property

Recent Examples on the Web

The 1907 monument was erected at a time when the South was being romanticized and slavery was de-emphasized. USA TODAY, "‘Stranger’ tourists, Phish and the plague, kinkajou attack: News from around our 50 states," 22 Aug. 2019 The focus has been on memorializing the liberation from slavery. Albert N. Kimbu, Quartz Africa, "The problem with Ghana’s Year of Return diaspora campaign to boost tourism," 8 Aug. 2019 White resentment from the Civil War and Reconstruction persists in Mississippi; along with a high number of casualties, the state went from being the richest from slavery to one of the poorest. Ellen Mcgirt, Fortune, "How Are You Keeping Your Hispanic Employees Safe?: raceAhead," 5 Aug. 2019 The issue recurs in different forms, from slavery through Jim Crow to mass incarceration and the all-too-routine police shootings that undermine any simple notion of inexorable progress. Los Angeles Times, "A new vibrant era in African American playwriting seen in Geraldine Inoa and Dionna M. Daniel’s latest," 28 July 2019 According to research from Wesleyan’s website, Cesar Beman earned his freedom from slavery by serving in the Revolutionary War. Lydia Gerike,, "‘History is about change’: Debate rises in Middletown over whether to change name of Woodrow Wilson Middle School," 21 June 2019 On its ridge is the village of Kiryat Luza, where, on the eve of each Passover, the roughly 800 members of the Samaritan community gather to pray and observe their liberation from slavery in Egypt. National Geographic, "The very ancient Passover of one of the smallest religions in the world," 19 Apr. 2019 In the relatively modest space of a single gallery, the show tries to do nothing less than chart the impact of black African slavery on both sides of the Atlantic from the 17th century to the present. Steven Litt,, "An urgent look at 400 years of history: ‘Black Atlantic’ exhibit in Oberlin explores impact of slavery," 25 Aug. 2019 Meanwhile, the New York Times’ in-depth investigation into the impact of slavery on American history prompted fear and loathing from the right wing. Graeme Mcmillan, WIRED, "While You Were Offline: Who Wants to See Sean Spicer’s Samba?," 25 Aug. 2019

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

1551, in the meaning defined at sense 3

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Statistics for slavery

Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for slavery

The first known use of slavery was in 1551

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More Definitions for slavery



English Language Learners Definition of slavery

: the state of being a slave
: the practice of owning slaves


slav·​ery | \ ˈslā-və-rē How to pronounce slavery (audio) , ˈslāv-rē\

Kids Definition of slavery

1 : the state of being owned by another person : bondage
2 : the custom or practice of owning slaves
3 : hard tiring labor : drudgery

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Comments on slavery

What made you want to look up slavery? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make a temporary encampment

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