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

Confederate differences While slavery is accurately depicted in the mural, Von Blum said some people today are hypersensitive about portrayals of African slaves. Kristin Lam, USA TODAY, "A California school board has voted to paint over a mural of George Washington. Educators want to save it," 11 July 2019 Manasseh Cutler was part of writing the ordinance, and McCullough gives him credit for including its ban on slavery. Polly Campbell,, "In 'The Pioneers,' historian McCullough finds heroes in Ohio history," 1 July 2019 Biggest idea for the economy: Pay $10 billion in slavery reparations every year for 10 years to the African American community. Quartz Staff, Quartz, "Meet all the Democratic candidates in the crowded 2020 race," 24 June 2019 The tradition is rooted in a painful history, one in which original Juneteenth celebrants were kept in slavery for two years after the rest of the country. Emma Keith, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Juneteenth Jubilee brings black-history education, celebration," 15 June 2019 The components of their menus can be traced back to West Africa and the American South during slavery. Josie Sexton, The Denver Post, "Where has Denver’s soul food gone? In a historically black neighborhood, the last restaurant of its kind turns 20," 12 June 2019 The same is true of our conception of freedom, as it was articulated again by Henry Ward Beecher and other great abolitionists in the struggle against the international economic juggernaut of chattel slavery. Marilynne Robinson, Harper's magazine, "Is Poverty Necessary?," 10 June 2019 Joe Biden & Kamala Harris are helpfully reminding Americans that the Democrats were the party of slavery, secession & segregation. Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker, "Democratic Debate 2019: Kamala Harris Exposed the Biden Weaknesses That Trump Will Exploit," 28 June 2019 Specifically, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, the 14th Amendment established due process and equal protection under the law, and the 15th Amendment prohibited denying the vote based on race, color or previous servitude. Lee Roop |,, "Alabama’s six constitutions make historic trip to free in-state showing," 26 June 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 1

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Statistics for slavery

Last Updated

17 Jul 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).


something desired as essential

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