[ sley-vuh-ree, sleyv-ree ]
/ ˈsleɪ və ri, ˈsleɪv ri /


the condition of a slave; bondage.
the keeping of slaves as a practice or institution.
a state of subjection like that of a slave: He was kept in slavery by drugs.
severe toil; drudgery.

Origin of slavery

First recorded in 1545–55; slave + -ery
1 thralldom, enthrallment. Slavery, bondage, servitude refer to involuntary subjection to another or others. Slavery emphasizes the idea of complete ownership and control by a master: to be sold into slavery. Bondage indicates a state of subjugation or captivity often involving burdensome and degrading labor: in bondage to a cruel master. Servitude is compulsory service, often such as is required by a legal penalty: penal servitude.
4 moil, labor.
Related formspre·slav·er·y, adjective, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for slavery

British Dictionary definitions for slavery


/ (ˈsleɪvərɪ) /


the state or condition of being a slave; a civil relationship whereby one person has absolute power over another and controls his life, liberty, and fortune
the subjection of a person to another person, esp in being forced into work
the condition of being subject to some influence or habit
work done in harsh conditions for low pay
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 slavery



1550s, "severe toil, hard work, drudgery;" from slave (v.) + -ery. Meaning "state of servitude" is from 1570s; meaning "keeping or holding of slaves" is from 1728.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper