Definition of slave in English:


Syllabification: slave
Pronunciation: /slāv


chiefly • historical
  • 1A person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.
    More example sentences
    • At any time, a master could confiscate any money that a slave had saved up, and the slave had no legal recourse.
    • A University of Pennsylvania report estimates 750,000 women were trafficked into the U.S. as sex slaves in the past decade.
    • While a slave could be raffled off or wagered at the master's whim, freeing a slave was fraught with legal obstacles.
    historical serf, vassal, thrall
    archaic bondsman, bondswoman
  • 1.1A person who works very hard without proper remuneration or appreciation: by the time I was ten, I had become her slave, doing all the housework
    More example sentences
    • The media joked that men would become domestic slaves to working women.
    • Citizens enjoy being lackeys and slaves to rich folks.
    • Many women are virtual slaves to their pimps, snared by false protestations of love, and then held in his thrall by a combination of violence and spurious affection.
    drudge, servant, lackey, minion
    informal gofer
  • 1.2A person who is excessively dependent upon or controlled by something: the poorest people of the world are slaves to the banks she was no slave to fashion
    More example sentences
    • He insists designers must look to the future or become slaves to the past.
    • But it is wrong to become a slave to food or to let it control you.
    • I am a free man, not a number; not a slave to silly ideas, not all that crazy and not one to suffer fools gladly!
  • 1.3A device, or part of one, directly controlled by another: [as modifier]: a slave cassette deck Compare with master1.
    More example sentences
    • The link slave devices and the link controller include protocol logic for communication according to a bidirectional protocol.
    • The arbiter device receives requests for data transfers from the master devices and selectively transmits the requests to the slave devices.
    • Power down your old computer, and install the new drive as a slave device to your old drive.
  • 1.4An ant captured in its pupal state by an ant of another species, for which it becomes a worker.
    More example sentences
    • Formica subnuda is a facultative slave-making ant, and colonies without slaves are often found.
    • When the brood matures, the workers begin slave raids on more Formica nests.


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  • 1Work excessively hard: after slaving away for fourteen years, all he gets is two thousand
    More example sentences
    • We are having sound and plasma screens in all the rooms, and we won't have to spend weekends slaving over DIY.
    • You've been slaving over dinosaur details for days on end.
    • But when I got home, Justin had obviously spent all day slaving away, making a 3 course dinner.
    toil, labor, grind away, sweat, work one's fingers to the bone, work like a Trojan/dog
    informal kill oneself, sweat blood, slog away
    literary travail
    archaic drudge, moil
  • 1.1 [with object] Subject (a device) to control by another: should the need arise, the two channels can be slaved together
    More example sentences
    • The helmet measures the pilot's line of sight to the target so the sensors, avionics and weapons are slaved to the target.
    • The commander has the option of handing off the target to the gunner or of slaving the gun to the commander's sight and initiating the fire.
    • During flight the missile is automatically slaved at about 0.5m above the line-of-sight to avoid obstacles.


Middle English: shortening of Old French esclave, equivalent of medieval Latin sclava (feminine) 'Slavic (captive)': some South Slavic peoples had been reduced to a servile state by conquest in the 9th century.

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