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See more synonyms for peonage on Thesaurus.com
  1. the condition or service of a peon.
  2. the practice of holding persons in servitude or partial slavery, as to work off a debt or to serve a penal sentence.
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Origin of peonage

An Americanism dating back to 1840–50; peon1 + -age
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for peonage

Historical Examples

  • Is it a wonder that he has resolved to go where peonage and blood-hounds are unknown?

    The Journal of Negro History, Volume 4, 1919


  • The master was tried for peonage in Texas, but was not convicted.

    The Southern South

    Albert Bushnell Hart

  • However, the peonage system is not hideous everywhere and in all its aspects.

  • The truth is that peonage is repugnant to the average American.

  • But they were just a bunch of pariahs shipped here to live in peonage.

    Badge of Infamy

    Lester del Rey

British Dictionary definitions for peonage


peonism (ˈpiːəˌnɪzəm)

  1. the state of being a peon
  2. a system in which a debtor must work for his creditor until the debt is paid off
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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

Word Origin and History for peonage


1848, American English, from peon + -age.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

peonage in Culture



A system of forced labor based on debts incurred by workers. Peonage developed particularly in plantation economies, where employers forced laborers to buy from employer-owned stores, pay inflated prices, and stay in debt.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.