\ 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
4 : drudge, toiler


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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Synonyms & Antonyms for slave

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Noun

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Examples of slave in a Sentence

Noun He's a slave to fashion trends. 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 Harrison also suggested that attending a party celebrating the South’s racist, slave-owning past wasn’t defined as socially unacceptable when Kirkconnell was photographed at the event in 2018. Greg Braxton,, "Last summer, Disney promised change. Then the first Black ‘Bachelor’s’ season unraveled," 12 Mar. 2021 Harrison also suggested that attending a party celebrating the South’s racist, slave-owning past wasn’t defined as socially unacceptable when Kirkconnell was photographed at the event in 2018. Greg Braxton, Los Angeles Times, "Last summer, Disney promised change. Then the first Black ‘Bachelor’s’ season unraveled," 12 Mar. 2021 Maryland, despite being a slave-owning state, never seceded from the Union. Tyler Van Dyke, Washington Examiner, "Maryland legislators consider repeal of pro-Confederacy state song," 29 Dec. 2020 Municipal, state and federal courthouses became reflection points, along with parks and other spots host to Confederate and other slave-owning figures. Sarah Ravits,, "Year in Review: The year of the protester," 28 Dec. 2020 There was the story of Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson, the civil rights pioneer whose father was a member of the slave-owning Carroll family, which owned the land that became the main campus. Jonathan M. Pitts,, "When history is a fable: Distorted accounts of the lives of Johns Hopkins and other famous men have consequences, historians say," 22 Dec. 2020 Despite the efforts of some slave-owning arrivals into California, there was never legal slavery in the state. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "California’s Illogical Reparations Bill," 8 Oct. 2020 The White House issued a proclamation honoring the birthday of a slave-owning Founding Father from Delaware as part of a long-running campaign to taunt Biden. Ryan Teague Beckwith,, "Debate’s Online Star Is a Fly Atop Pence’s Head: Campaign Update," 7 Oct. 2020 Threats to tear down the statue surfaced this summer due to Rodney's slave-owning past. Bo Erickson, CBS News, "Biden's hometown campaign brings spotlight and economic boost to tiny Wilmington, Delaware," 6 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb By one account, more than a million Egyptian peasants were forced into the project and tens of thousands perished, contracting diseases like cholera in circumstances likened to slave labor. Washington Post, "The Suez Canal, a chokepoint of history," 26 Mar. 2021 The Cubans in turn relied on the Brazilians as investors but also for their extensive connections to slave traders in West Central Africa. James Oakes, The New York Review of Books, "Why Did the Slave Trade Survive So Long?," 23 Mar. 2021 In New York, key officials like U.S. Marshal Isaiah Rynders were notoriously sympathetic to slave interests and several took bribes from traffickers to let ships sail out to sea. John Harris, Smithsonian Magazine, "How a Cuban Spy Sabotaged New York’s Thriving Illicit Slave Trade," 8 Mar. 2021 Inspired by true events, Georgeanna, a Civil War nurse for the Union, meets slave Jemma, recently conscripted into the army, but still pursued by her former owner, now a Confederate spy. Lesley Kennedy, CNN Underscored, "20 of the most anticipated new books to read this March," 2 Mar. 2021 In the United States, reparations to slave owners in Washington, D.C., were paid at the height of the Civil War. Thomas Craemer, The Conversation, "There was a time reparations were actually paid out – just not to formerly enslaved people," 26 Feb. 2021 The attachment comes with three blades for slicing, fine shredding, and course shredding, and with this tool in their kitchen, your recipient will never have to slave over a box grater again. Camryn Rabideau, USA TODAY, "25 best kitchen gifts to buy from Wayfair," 3 Nov. 2020 This payout was a massive 40% of the government's budget and required many bonds to slave owners to effectuate the law. Matthew Brown, USA TODAY, "Fact check: United Kingdom finished paying off debts to slave-owning families in 2015," 1 July 2020 Crime, Policing and Justice Minister Kit Malthouse called Monday for those responsible for toppling the bronze memorial to slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol to be prosecuted. Brian Dakss, CBS News, "Live updates: George Floyd memorials reach his hometown of Houston," 8 June 2020

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

10 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Slave.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for slave



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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