slav·​ery ˈslā-v(ə-)rē How to pronounce slavery (audio)
plural slaveries
: the practice or institution of holding people as chattel involuntarily and under threat of violence
In reality, though, African forms of slavery didn't compare with the racialized industrial variants that Western empires unleashed upon the world. … Here in the United States … the enslaved were relegated to subhuman status for generations.Julian Lucas
Slavery officially ended in New Jersey in 1804, but in practice some people remained slaves until 1865, when the ratification of the 13th Amendment formally abolished slavery in the United States.Suzanne Travers
: the state of a person who is forced usually under threat of violence to labor for the profit of another
[Frederick] Douglass, born a slave in Maryland in 1818, escaped from slavery at the age of twenty and quickly emerged as a major orator and leader of the antislavery crusade.Manning Marable
The organization says it has helped 135 victims escape sex slavery over the past 10 years.Audrey McAvoy
: a situation or practice in which people are entrapped (as by debt) and exploited
… the unit has freed more than 26,000 workers nationwide from debt slavery. Under the practice, common in the Amazon, poor laborers are lured to remote spots where they rack up debts to plantation owners who charge exorbitant prices for everything from food to transportation.Vivian Sequera
Many members of my own family, including my mother and father, fled their work as sharecroppers in the South. They left for good reason: the profession offered no future and was little more than wage slavery.Will Allen
: submission to a dominating influence
slavery to habit
… it will probably be left to the next administration to act hopefully in a bold and visionary manner to free us from our slavery to oil.Alon Ben-Meir

Examples of slavery in a Sentence

Frederick Douglass was central advocate for the abolition of slavery. My dad put up with the slavery of working in the coal mines every day of his adult life.
Recent Examples on the Web The national holiday commemorating the end of slavery is celebrated June 19, and across the metro, the festivals have expanded to include a month of events that celebrate Black culture. Joseph Hernandez, Kansas City Star, 7 June 2024 Her 1851 speech drew upon her experiences of slavery and questioned why her humanity and that of other enslaved African Americans were not recognized as equal to that of white Americans. Melissa Noel, Essence, 1 June 2024 The steps honor Queen Victoria, the Britain monarch who reigned from 1837 to 1901 and who abolished slavery in the British colonies. Amy Bentley, Orange County Register, 29 May 2024 An apology is the cornerstone of first-in-the-nation reparations legislation to repair the wrongs of slavery and the systemic injustices that followed. Darrell Smith, Sacramento Bee, 23 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for slavery 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'slavery.' 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

1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

Time Traveler
The first known use of slavery was in 1548

Dictionary Entries Near slavery

Cite this Entry

“Slavery.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


slav·​ery ˈslāv-(ə-)rē How to pronounce slavery (audio)
: the state of a person who is held in forced servitude
: the practice of slaveholding

More from Merriam-Webster on slavery

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