slav·​ery ˈslā-v(ə-)rē How to pronounce slavery (audio)
plural slaveries
: the practice or institution of holding people as chattel involuntarily and under threat of violence
In reality, though, African forms of slavery didn't compare with the racialized industrial variants that Western empires unleashed upon the world. … Here in the United States … the enslaved were relegated to subhuman status for generations.Julian Lucas
Slavery officially ended in New Jersey in 1804, but in practice some people remained slaves until 1865, when the ratification of the 13th Amendment formally abolished slavery in the United States.Suzanne Travers
: the state of a person who is forced usually under threat of violence to labor for the profit of another
[Frederick] Douglass, born a slave in Maryland in 1818, escaped from slavery at the age of twenty and quickly emerged as a major orator and leader of the antislavery crusade.Manning Marable
The organization says it has helped 135 victims escape sex slavery over the past 10 years.Audrey McAvoy
: 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
: submission to a dominating influence
slavery to habit
… it will probably be left to the next administration to act hopefully in a bold and visionary manner to free us from our slavery to oil.Alon Ben-Meir

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 After the scholars, comedians are perhaps the most likely to take up the question of slavery among the founding fathers. Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times, 2 July 2024 There were many Americans during his lifetime who asserted the evil of slavery. Laura A. MacAluso & Karim M. Tiro / Made By History, TIME, 2 July 2024 Campbell, who was from Alabama, was selected by Pierce in an effort to appease the Southern states, who were afraid that the court would lean toward abolition of slavery. Voice Of The People, New York Daily News, 1 July 2024 Hannah-Jones, who teaches at Howard University, initiated The 1619 Project, which reframes and reconsiders how the story of slavery has been told by historians and journalists. Christopher Arnott, Hartford Courant, 28 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for slavery 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'slavery.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

Time Traveler
The first known use of slavery was in 1548

Dictionary Entries Near slavery

Cite this Entry

“Slavery.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


slav·​ery ˈslāv-(ə-)rē How to pronounce slavery (audio)
: the state of a person who is held in forced servitude
: the practice of slaveholding

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