slavery

noun

slav·​ery ˈslā-v(ə-)rē How to pronounce slavery (audio)
1
a
: 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

Example Sentences

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 Will’s focus on working people led him to a ferocious denunciation of slavery—in his mind, the ultimate violation of the dignity of labor. Jon Grinspan, Smithsonian Magazine, 3 Dec. 2022 Jefferson read Condorcet’s denunciation of slavery in Reflections on the Slavery of Negroes, a powerfully eloquent screed, two copies of which Jefferson bought in 1788. Time, 25 Nov. 2022 The ordinance set a lofty agenda: representative government, religious liberty and the prohibition of slavery. Kelly Scott Franklin, WSJ, 24 Nov. 2022 Making a movie that reckons with the history of slavery is a huge responsibility. Los Angeles Times, 17 Nov. 2022 But some schools voted to drop the names of controversial presidents, like James Buchanan, who failed to challenge the spread of slavery immediately before the Civil War. Taylor Wilson, USA TODAY, 17 Nov. 2022 On Cornell’s campus, Wayne has relied on the statue as a portal for his students to go back into history and truly understand the weight and evils of slavery and the American figures who fought back. Emma Colton, Fox News, 17 Nov. 2022 In several Southern states after the end of slavery and after Black men were allowed to vote, Black people were a majority of the electorate. Brandon Tensley, CNN, 11 Nov. 2022 Tennessee has officially banned all forms of slavery. CBS News, 9 Nov. 2022 See More

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.

Word History

First Known Use

1551, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Time Traveler
The first known use of slavery was in 1551

Dictionary Entries Near slavery

Cite this Entry

“Slavery.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/slavery. Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

slavery

noun

slav·​ery ˈslāv-(ə-)rē How to pronounce slavery (audio)
1
2
a
: the state of being a slave
b
: the practice of slaveholding

More from Merriam-Webster on slavery

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