slav·​ery | \ ˈslā-v(ə-)rē \

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

Questions of how slavery, Jim Crow, the Prison Industrial Complex, and the school-to-prison pipeline affect Black life have been the central focus of many of the best films to come out of Black cinema in the past decade. Joelle Monique, Teen Vogue, ""If Beale Street Could Talk" Highlights the Power of Love in a World Designed for Black People to Fail," 9 Jan. 2019 Kossola survives Middle Passage, slavery, and the Jim Crow south, so his story serves as a kind of synecdoche of the trauma of race in America. Constance Grady, Vox, "The 16 best books I read in 2018," 21 Dec. 2018 Nobody is calling for return to slavery, nobody is calling for ending universal suffrage. Fox News, "Tucker: Brett Kavanaugh and the hypocrisy of the Democratic Party," 18 Sep. 2018 Widely considered the oldest houses built by African Americans in Connecticut, the Freeman Houses, part of the city’s Little Liberia neighborhood and built before the state abolished slavery, still stand on their original foundation. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "National Trust’s List of 11 Most Endangered Places includes Route 66, Mount Vernon," 26 June 2018 On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX, and announced the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery. Hanaa’ Tameez, star-telegram, "Don't miss the last Juneteenth events around Fort Worth," 18 June 2018 White women educators censored textbooks and downplayed the role of slavery in the Civil War as a way to infuse the public education curriculum with white supremacist politics. Treva B. Lindsey, Vox, "The betrayal of white women voters: in pivotal state races, they still backed the GOP," 9 Nov. 2018 The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States, so naturally many were troubled by West's caption. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Lana Del Rey Calls Out Kanye West: 'Your Support of Donald Trump Is a Loss for the Culture'," 1 Oct. 2018 The conversation about Black women and labor often begins following the legal end of slavery in some states in 1863. Jenn M. Jackson, Teen Vogue, "Black Women's Labor in America Has Always Been Exploited," 7 Aug. 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

16 Jan 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, 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

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marked by shyness and lack of polish

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