[ ek-sploi-tey-shuhn ]
/ ˌɛk splɔɪˈteɪ ʃən /
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use or utilization, especially for profit: the exploitation of newly discovered oil fields.
selfish utilization: He got ahead through the exploitation of his friends.
the combined, often varied, use of public-relations and advertising techniques to promote a person, movie, product, etc.
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Origin of exploitation

From French, dating back to 1795–1805; see origin at exploit2, -ation

OTHER WORDS FROM exploitation

ex·ploi·ta·tion·al, adjectiveex·ploi·ta·tion·al·ly, adverbnon·ex·ploi·ta·tion, nouno·ver·ex·ploi·ta·tion, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does exploitation mean?

Exploitation is the act of selfishly taking advantage of someone or a group of people in order to profit from them or otherwise benefit oneself.

Exploitation is a noun form of the verb exploit, which commonly means to take advantage in such a way. The adjective form is exploitative, as in exploitative practices. 

As a verb, exploit can also be used in a more neutral way that doesn’t imply selfishness: to make the best use of something, especially an opportunity, or to create a profit or other benefit. But when the verb is applied to people, it is always used negatively.

Exploitation can also be used in a way that means the use of something, especially for profit, as in Since we have these resources, we should make sure that the exploitation of them maximizes revenue. 

Still, exploitation is most commonly used in a negative way. One phrase in which it has this negative sense is exploitation film, a low-budget movie characterized by extreme violence, excessive gore, gratuitous sex, or other content meant to shock, disgust, or titillate.

The related term blaxploitation refers to the exploitation of Black people and stereotypes about them, especially in movies featuring or intending to appeal to Black people.

Example: The exploitation of workers to maximize profit is sadly widespread.

Where does exploitation come from?

The first records of the word exploitation come from right around 1800. It’s base word, exploit, is recorded much earlier and derives from the Latin explicātus, meaning “unfolded” or “set forth.” It wasn’t until around the 1800s that exploit started to be used to refer to extracting natural resources from the earth, and then to using someone or something for one’s own selfish ends.

Exploitation is most often used negatively, especially when it refers to taking advantage of people. It is often used in the context of the exploitation of workers by businesses that underpay and overwork them, or take advantage of them in other ways. Exploitation often implies that it’s being done by people who are in positions of power to those without power. Poor people and people of color are often targets of such exploitation.

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What are some other forms related to exploitation?

  • exploit (verb)
  • exploitational (adjective)
  • exploitationally (adverb)
  • nonexploitation (noun)
  • overexploitation (noun)

What are some synonyms for exploitation?

What are some words that share a root or word element with exploitation


What are some words that often get used in discussing exploitation?


How is exploitation used in real life?

Exploitation is most commonly used in a negative way, especially in the context of people who are being exploited for profit.



Try using exploitation!

True or False? 

The word exploitation is always used in a negative way.

How to use exploitation in a sentence