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[sleyv] /sleɪv/
a person who is the property of and wholly subject to another; a bond servant.
a person entirely under the domination of some influence or person:
a slave to a drug.
a drudge:
a housekeeping slave.
Photography. a subsidiary flash lamp actuated through its photoelectric cell when the principal flash lamp is discharged.
Machinery. a mechanism under control of and repeating the actions of a similar mechanism.
Compare master (def 19).
verb (used without object), slaved, slaving.
to work like a slave; drudge.
to engage in the slave trade; procure, transport, or sell slaves.
verb (used with object), slaved, slaving.
to connect (a machine) to a master as its slave.
Archaic. to enslave.
Origin of slave
1250-1300; Middle English sclave < Medieval Latin sclāvus (masculine), sclāva (feminine) slave, special use of Sclāvus Slavic, so called because Slavs were commonly enslaved in the early Middle Ages; see Slav
Related forms
slaveless, adjective
slavelike, adjective
proslave, adjective
semislave, noun
7. toil, labor, slog, grind.


[sleyv] /sleɪv/
noun, plural Slaves (especially collectively) Slave.
a member of a group of Athabaskan-speaking North American Indians living in the upper Mackenzie River valley region of the Northwest Territories and in parts of British Columbia, Alberta, and the Yukon Territory.
Also, Slavey. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for slave
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The spirit and the gifts of freedom ill assort with the condition of a slave.

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • No one of our kindred must enter the family of Pericles as a slave.

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • The Athenian slave laws were much more mild than modern codes.

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • A little of it is all right—but don't be a slave to your passions.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • Had she been his slave, he might have become a very unyielding or a very heedless despot.

    Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson
British Dictionary definitions for slave


a person legally owned by another and having no freedom of action or right to property
a person who is forced to work for another against his will
a person under the domination of another person or some habit or influence: a slave to television
a person who works in harsh conditions for low pay
  1. a device that is controlled by or that duplicates the action of another similar device (the master device)
  2. (as modifier): slave cylinder
(intransitive) often foll by away. to work like a slave
(transitive) an archaic word for enslave
Word Origin
C13: via Old French from Medieval Latin Sclāvus a Slav, one held in bondage (from the fact that the Slavonic races were frequently conquered in the Middle Ages), from Late Greek Sklabos a Slav
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for slave

late 13c., "person who is the chattel or property of another," from Old French esclave (13c.), from Medieval Latin Sclavus "slave" (source also of Italian schiavo, French esclave, Spanish esclavo), originally "Slav" (see Slav); so used in this secondary sense because of the many Slavs sold into slavery by conquering peoples.

This sense development arose in the consequence of the wars waged by Otto the Great and his successors against the Slavs, a great number of whom they took captive and sold into slavery. [Klein]
Meaning "one who has lost the power of resistance to some habit or vice" is from 1550s. Applied to devices from 1904, especially those which are controlled by others (cf. slave jib in sailing, similarly of locomotives, flash bulbs, amplifiers). Slave-driver is attested from 1807; extended sense of "cruel or exacting task-master" is by 1854. Slate state in U.S. history is from 1812. Slave-trade is attested from 1734.

Old English Wealh "Briton" also began to be used in the sense of "serf, slave" c.850; and Sanskrit dasa-, which can mean "slave," apparently is connected to dasyu- "pre-Aryan inhabitant of India." More common Old English words for slave were þeow (related to þeowian "to serve") and þræl (see thrall). The Slavic words for "slave" (Russian rab, Serbo-Croatian rob, Old Church Slavonic rabu) are from Old Slavic *orbu, from the PIE root *orbh- (also source of orphan), the ground sense of which seems to be "thing that changes allegiance" (in the case of the slave, from himself to his master). The Slavic word is also the source of robot.


Indian tribe of northwestern Canada, 1789, from slave (n.), translating Cree (Algonquian) awahkan "captive, slave."


1550s, "to enslave," from slave (n.). The meaning "work like a slave" is first recorded 1719. Related: Slaved; slaving.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for slave



A job: You got a job, man. You got a slave (1930s+ Black)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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