\ ˈslāv How to pronounce slave (audio) \

Definition of slave

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1 : a person held in servitude as the chattel of another
2 : one that is completely subservient to a dominating influence
3 : a device (such as the printer of a computer) that is directly responsive to another


slaved; slaving

Definition of slave (Entry 2 of 4)

intransitive verb

1 : to work like a slave : drudge
2 : to traffic in slaves

transitive verb

1 : to make directly responsive to another mechanism
2 archaic : enslave



Definition of slave (Entry 3 of 4)

1a : of, relating to, involving, or used for slaves or slavery slave traders a slave auction slave owners a slave economy Many authentic slave narratives were influenced by Harriet Beecher Stowe; on the other hand, authentic slave narratives were among Stowe's primary sources for her own imaginative work, Uncle Tom's Cabin.— Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
b : held in or forced into servitude : enslaved born of slave parents slave workers
c : favoring or legally permitting slavery a slave territory the slave states
2 : operated by remote control the device now tucked away behind the dials isn't properly a clockwork but a … slave unit activated by an electric clock inside the bankThe New Yorker specifically : responding to manipulation of the master controls of an apparatus There's also provision for attaching external slave flash units for greater flash range when using print film. — Herbert Keppler … had the ultimate compact-disc system—a master machine and four optional slave machines—that will load and play 250 discs altogether … — William D. Marbach


geographical name
\ ˈslāv How to pronounce Slave (audio) \

Definition of Slave (Entry 4 of 4)

river 258 miles (415 kilometers) long in Canada flowing from the western end of Lake Athabasca north into Great Slave Lake

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Examples of slave in a Sentence

Noun He treats her like a slave. Do it yourself! I'm not your slave! Verb I slaved all morning to get the work done on time. She's been slaving away at her homework.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Stopping the British: The English upper classes preferred the slave-owning secessionist South in the Civil War, but an able U.S. diplomat was able to persuade London to stay neutral during the conflict. Keith Laszinski, National Geographic, "What caused Haiti's 2010 quake and Puerto Rico's more recent temblors?," 20 Jan. 2020 Having been sold as a slave to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard, Joseph was falsely accused of attempting to rape Potiphar’s wife. Alex Cuadros, Harper's magazine, "“My Gang Is Jesus”," 20 Jan. 2020 Critics of the Lee-Jackson holiday view it as a celebration of the state’s slave-holding history that’s offensive to African Americans. USA TODAY, "Surfing Santas, endangered red wolves, who owns the letter ‘O’?: News from around our 50 states," 28 Dec. 2019 The capitalists owned everything in the world, and everyone else was their slave. The Economist, "Open Future Is liberalism really kaput?," 4 Dec. 2019 Unsurprisingly, Twitter users found plenty of reasons to call Peloton out, mostly because this particular woman really, really doesn’t need to be a slave to her Peloton, according to commenters. Claire Gillespie,, "Peloton's Holiday Bike Commercial Is Making the Internet Angry—Here's Why," 3 Dec. 2019 Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia to rival the great universities in the North and transform a slave-owning generation. David W. Blight, The Atlantic, "Frederick Douglass’s Vision for a Reborn America," 9 Nov. 2019 His new book focuses on economies outside the West, with references to India and China and analyses of communist, colonial and slave-owning economies, according to Bloomberg. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, "Economist Piketty's latest book a 1,200 page tome about abolishing billionaires," 12 Sep. 2019 Recently, slave descendants have begun agitating for equality, staging protests and pressuring politicians. Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, The New Yorker, "The Descendants of Slaves in Nigeria Fight for Equality," 11 July 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Many are just a jumble of arms slaving away on a production line. The Economist, "Biological robots A research team builds robots from living cells," 18 Jan. 2020 There was no hiding the squalid remnants of a slaving voyage, and Foster risked the death penalty if caught. National Geographic, "," 16 Jan. 2020 Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies Too busy wrapping presents to slave away in the kitchen? Christina Oehler,, "7 Keto Cookie Recipes You Need This Holiday Season," 6 Dec. 2019 Bristol's wealth in the 17th century was largely built on the slave trade, with more than 2,000 slaving vessels setting out from the city's port between 1698 and 1807, when Parliament abolished the slave trade, according to Bristol Museums. Gianluca Mezzofiore, CNN, "British university appoints history professor to examine its links to transatlantic slave trade," 30 Oct. 2019 Whatever the reason, come Thanksgiving, a whole nation of cooks sequester themselves in the kitchen to slave over a hot oven and multiple pans on the stove. Chuck Blount,, "A whole Thanksgiving meal cooked on the grill and smoker," 20 Nov. 2019 Freedom and democracy are more important than slaving ourselves away for money. Vivienne Chow, Quartz, "Hong Kong’s protesters are trying to break free from the “old seafood” generation," 27 Aug. 2019 These recipes beg to be made ahead, but if the idea of slaving over a hot Instant Pot all afternoon gives you any form of discomfort, pick just one and tell your picnic pals to pack the rest of the basket. Lisa Futterman,, "How to Instant Pot your picnic, with recipes for pate, savory cheesecake and dessert," 18 July 2019 Participants working long hours had a 29 percent greater risk of stroke, and those working long hours for 10 years or more slaved their way into a 45 percent greater risk of stroke. Karen D'souza, The Mercury News, "You’ll be shocked how much working long hours spikes your stroke risk," 21 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'slave.' 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 slave


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1602, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2


1576, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

History and Etymology for slave


Middle English sclave, from Anglo-French or Medieval Latin; Anglo-French esclave, from Medieval Latin sclavus, from Sclavus Slav; from the frequent enslavement of Slavs in central Europe during the early Middle Ages

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Time Traveler for slave

Time Traveler

The first known use of slave was in the 14th century

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Statistics for slave

Last Updated

9 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Slave.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for slave


How to pronounce Slave (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of slave

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: someone who is legally owned by another person and is forced to work for that person without pay
disapproving : a person who is strongly influenced and controlled by something



English Language Learners Definition of slave (Entry 2 of 2)

: to work very hard


\ ˈslāv How to pronounce slave (audio) \

Kids Definition of slave

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a person who is owned by another person and can be sold at the owner's will
2 : a person who is strongly influenced and controlled by something a slave to fashion
3 : drudge


slaved; slaving

Kids Definition of slave (Entry 2 of 2)

: to work very hard, for long hours, or under difficult conditions … I could only see myself slaving … in the tobacco fields.— Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped

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More from Merriam-Webster on slave

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for slave

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with slave

Spanish Central: Translation of slave

Nglish: Translation of slave for Spanish Speakers

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

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