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 held in forced servitude
c : 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
2 : submission to a dominating influence slavery to habit
3 : drudgery, toil

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Synonyms & Antonyms for slavery



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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 Next year, the event will coincide with Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19 to recognize the end of slavery in the U.S. Barbara Bry, San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 Sep. 2021 The term refers to a myth, championed by white supremacists, that purports the Civil War had little to do with defending the institution of slavery. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, 10 Sep. 2021 About 82% of Democrat parents support schools teaching about the ongoing effects of slavery, compared to 38% of Republican parents. Erin Richards, USA TODAY, 10 Sep. 2021 For weeks the Republican front-runner has been Elder, who, among other controversial comments about women and the legacy of slavery, has also pledged to abolish Newsom’s mask and vaccine mandates. Washington Post, 8 Sep. 2021 Despite the Union victory that would lead to the abolition of slavery in the United States, symbols of the Confederacy proliferated. Essence, 8 Sep. 2021 Agitation over how schools ought to discuss the legacy of slavery persists into the present. Brandon Tensley, CNN, 2 Sep. 2021 Just two generations out of slavery, by 1910 Black farmers had amassed more than 16 million acres of land and made up about 14 percent of farmers. Roxana Hegeman And Allen G. Breed, The Christian Science Monitor, 1 Sep. 2021 Our religion compels us to confront our world’s history of slavery. Time, 1 Sep. 2021

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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Time Traveler for slavery

Time Traveler

The first known use of slavery was in 1551

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Dictionary Entries Near slavery



slave state

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Statistics for slavery

Last Updated

17 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Slavery.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Sep. 2021.

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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 practice of owning slaves
3 : hard tiring labor : drudgery

More from Merriam-Webster on slavery

Nglish: Translation of slavery for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of slavery for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about slavery


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