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

Definition of slavery

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

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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

In Season 4, Jamie and Claire witness a lot of painful moments in American history that Claire is already very familiar with: slavery, the treatment of indigenous peoples, the impending Revolution. Julie Kosin, Harper's BAZAAR, "Sam Heughan on What the Outlander Finale Means for Season 5: "It's Going to Be Tough"," 28 Jan. 2019 The commission compared the conduct of the baker, who agreed to sell the couple a cake, but not a wedding cake, to slavery and the Holocaust. Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post, "Why many religious liberty groups are silent on the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Trump’s travel ban," 26 June 2018 On Friday, President Trump stood on the White House lawn and lauded Civil War General Robert E. Lee, who headed an army hell-bent on destroying the United States and preserving the institution of slavery. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "The Week in Washington: “We’re Fighting All the Subpoenas!”," 28 Apr. 2019 These instructions by the Daltons are reminiscent of how slave masters implemented rules to make clear their ownership of black people during plantation slavery. Prince Shakur, Teen Vogue, ""Native Son" Reflects a World Where Young Black Men Are Often Set Up to Fail," 16 Apr. 2019 And after that: the title role in Kasi Lemmons’s Harriet, about Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery to become a powerful abolitionist. Hamish Bowles, Vogue, "Tony Award winning Cynthia Erivo on Taking the Leap from Stage to Screen," 17 Oct. 2018 The march was staged during the premiere for Eva Husson's Girls of the Sun, a war film focusing on a Kurdish battalion of women who escape slavery to become soldiers working to liberate their country from extremists. Andrea Mandell, USA TODAY, "Women march, demand parity at the Cannes Film Festival," 12 May 2018 The tour explores various landmarks in Fells Point, where orator and abolitionist Douglass once lived, escaped slavery and returned to speak and purchase Dallas Street properties as a free man. Brittany Britto,, "10 people who make the Baltimore region better: Torrey Smith to Kondwani Fidel," 13 Apr. 2018 The house was remodeled in 1920, but experts say that the front marble steps appear to be the same ones that Still and many people escaping slavery would have stood on more than 150 years ago. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Underground Railroad Safe House Discovered in Philadelphia," 23 Mar. 2018

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 1

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Statistics for slavery

Last Updated

22 May 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 speak slightingly about or to degrade

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