Definition of slave in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /slāv/


chiefly historical
1A person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.
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!
devotee, worshiper, adherent;
informal fanatic, freak, nut, addict
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.
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.


[no object]
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.

  • Our word slave was shortened from early French esclave in the Middle Ages. In medieval Latin the equivalent form sclavus is identical with Sclavus, the source of Slav. The Slavic peoples of eastern and central Europe had been conquered and reduced to a servile state during the 9th century. Wage slaves is a term used in the English translation of the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Words that rhyme with slave

behave, brave, Cave, clave, concave, crave, Dave, deprave, engrave, enslave, fave, forgave, gave, grave, knave, lave, Maeve, misbehave, misgave, nave, outbrave, pave, rave, save, shave, shortwave, stave, they've, waive, wave

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: slave

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.