Definition of slave in English:



  • 1(especially in the past) a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.

    ‘he killed the natives or turned them into slaves’
    • ‘At any time, a master could confiscate any money that a slave had saved up, and the slave had no legal recourse.’
    • ‘Technically Roman slaves were the property, the chattels, of their owners, held in a state of total subjection.’
    • ‘While a slave could be raffled off or wagered at the master's whim, freeing a slave was fraught with legal obstacles.’
    • ‘A University of Pennsylvania report estimates 750,000 women were trafficked into the U.S. as sex slaves in the past decade.’
    • ‘Since slaves were property, once you find the slave owner, search the records to find out what he did with his property.’
    • ‘This was recognition that insurance companies made profits insuring slaves as property.’
    • ‘All kinds of property including slaves are inheritable by relatives.’
    • ‘Here the whites enjoyed such a preponderance that they could dare to assign people of ‘mixed blood’ the same social and legal basis as their slaves.’
    • ‘Each clan had many slaves, much property, and great political power.’
    • ‘He understands his position, while a slave, as transportable property.’
    • ‘What this meant in terms of the slaves ' legal status was unclear.’
    • ‘Property rights in slaves and their labor can be bought and sold via market transactions.’
    • ‘To say that a slave is simply the property or another does not adequately describe the condition of bonded dependents in an African context.’
    • ‘For most American slaves, forced relocation south was anathema and often the first impetus for their flight to Canada.’
    • ‘So instead of owning the property, former slaves who wanted to stay there had to work for the former slaveholders.’
    • ‘After about 1831 you had to get legal approval to release slaves.’
    • ‘Two hundred years ago it was legal to own a slave but illegal to have an abortion.’
    • ‘The economic foundations of the Confederacy were overthrown and property in slaves valued at $4 billion was expropriated.’
    • ‘It is a multifaceted paradox that the forced immigration of African slaves was born of the saintly Las Casas's concern that the remaining natives should not be worked to death.’
    bondsman, bondswoman, bondservant, bondslave, serf, vassal, thrall
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    1. 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’
      • ‘The media joked that men would become domestic slaves to working women.’
      • ‘In all reality, I was his slave.’
      • ‘Because in the end, the workers became the slaves of the communist masters.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Her solicitor claimed that Smith's wife was his slave.’
      drudge, servant, general factotum, maid of all work, man of all work, lackey, minion, galley slave
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    2. 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’
      • ‘We should want people to have more choice in how they lead their lives, rather than being slaves to their physical reactions.’
      • ‘I work very hard - in fact, I've had to work like a slave because I was a slave to drugs.’
      • ‘It seems these slaves to efficiency have mastered the age-old art of time maximization like no others of our generation.’
      • ‘America was the world's first nation to set up a system in which individuals owned their government - as opposed to the rest of the world were people remained slaves to their rulers.’
      • ‘He insists designers must look to the future or become slaves to the past.’
      • ‘The day we lose our rebellious streak against ridiculous restrictions is the day we allow ourselves to become slaves to political correctness and the elites of Dublin and Europe.’
      • ‘But that was in an era when women, like men, were slaves to convention.’
      • ‘But it is wrong to become a slave to food or to let it control you.’
      • ‘Why do we allow ourselves to become slaves to narcotics?’
      • ‘The choice of a slave to Russia versus a slave to the West may not be a great one, but the will of the people must prevail.’
      • ‘Such people, of course, rarely will admit being slaves to fashion.’
      • ‘We don't want to forget the past, but we don't want to remain slaves of the past.’
      • ‘So we make this big loan, most of it comes back to the United States, the country is left with the debt plus lots of interest, and they basically become our servants, our slaves.’
      • ‘In many places where there is no transferable title that is recognized nation-wide, people are in effect slaves to a traditional plot of land.’
      • ‘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!’
      • ‘The universe is clearly a slave to the numbers - as long as you selectively pick the numbers and make up the rules for their accumulation, after the fact.’
      • ‘And as for domestic animals, they are total slaves to the whims of others.’
      • ‘Many people think that if there's something in the genome that controls our lives we're slaves to it.’
      • ‘The exhibition reminds the viewers how the innocence of the tribals was cruelly exploited by those from the cities, how a large body of the tribal population became slaves to alcohol.’
      • ‘As Sir James Steuart commented in 1767, ‘men are forced to labour now because they are slaves to their own wants’.’
    3. 1.3A device, or part of one, directly controlled by another.
      [as modifier] ‘a slave cassette deck’
      Compare with master
      • ‘Only registered users are able to upload code to the slave machines.’
      • ‘Each of the slave nodes has a timer programmed with a separate failure mode detection time period.’
      • ‘I first installed Linux when my hard drive was a primary slave.’
      • ‘The arbiter device receives requests for data transfers from the master devices and selectively transmits the requests to the slave devices.’
      • ‘This cylinder is actually a slave cylinder that is hydraulically interconnected to the big lift cylinder on the main boom.’
      • ‘Furthermore, the master also controls when devices transmit data, since slaves can only transmit when scheduled by the master.’
      • ‘The technology would also eliminate the need for master / slave jumpers on devices to simplify installation.’
      • ‘Each of the slave processors calculates the likelihood of the tree, given a set of parameters.’
      • ‘This connection strategy also negates the need for master / slave jumper settings on devices.’
      • ‘I believe the source of my problem is that I installed the second hard drive as slave on the secondary IDE.’
      • ‘That is to say that a slave antenna is calibrated with reference to another one considered as the reference antenna.’
      • ‘Fortunately, a slave pin is included in the kit.’
      • ‘What happens next is pretty cool but is hidden from the user (unless you hook up a monitor to a slave node).’
      • ‘Data lock is achieved by making sure that the slave machines in the cluster are on the correct eye when the parallel port is in a certain state.’
      • ‘In this case the slave machine acquires the resources after the ten-second node timeout occurs, as shown in the log excerpt.’
      • ‘The link slave devices and the link controller include protocol logic for communication according to a bidirectional protocol.’
      • ‘If the master fails, we have a way to switch to a slave machine quickly and with minimal data loss, if any.’
      • ‘Power down your old computer, and install the new drive as a slave device to your old drive.’
      • ‘One node is designated as the master node controlling the scheduling of the slave nodes and all communications with the outside world.’
      • ‘The controller acts as a liaison between the slave work processor and the master, leaving the work processor to concentrate solely on data processing.’


  • 1 Work excessively hard.

    ‘after slaving away for fourteen years all he gets is two thousand’
    • ‘But when I got home, Justin had obviously spent all day slaving away, making a 3 course dinner.’
    • ‘And I'll be stuck slaving away in some moldy old courtroom, wondering ‘what if?’’
    • ‘For months I had seen people slaving away behind newspaper-covered windows that only allowed for a peek.’
    • ‘I mean, I've only been slaving away at it for the past two weeks.’
    • ‘Still, after a day slaving away at a hot computer terminal, I vowed to go home and bash away on at least one design tonight.’
    • ‘It will be the crowning moment of countless hours spent slaving away in his extended garage.’
    • ‘You've been slaving over dinosaur details for days on end.’
    • ‘She's spent five years slaving away for her millionaire real estate tycoon tyrant of a boss - and she's sick of it!’
    • ‘It's so warm out and since I was slaving away in the hot kitchen, I opened up the windows to get some air circulating.’
    • ‘Admittedly, it gets a little boring at times, but that suits me just fine, because at least I'm not slaving away at some unfulfilling, low-paying job that I probably wouldn't be good at anyway.’
    • ‘They had heard about aboriginal writers slaving away somewhere out there on new scripts for theatre, but where were they all hiding?’
    • ‘After slaving over a business plan, the pair applied to the Prince's Trust for a loan and were awarded the money in February 2000.’
    • ‘It keeps us working forever, chained to our desks slaving day after day to pay for it.’
    • ‘When you're slaving away on perfecting your own projects, to see someone else exhibit that care and that passion, even in an entirely different field, is a pleasure.’
    • ‘We are having sound and plasma screens in all the rooms, and we won't have to spend weekends slaving over DIY.’
    • ‘Why slave long and hard in the kitchen, when you can make this salad in minutes, leaving you free to concentrate on the one you love!’
    • ‘We were back at his house, slaving away at homework.’
    • ‘I've been slaving over this one - really, I have!’
    • ‘She was scrubbing floors and slaving away to pay for food and lodging.’
    • ‘I'd feel bad knowing you were slaving away your Saturday.’
    toil, labour, grind, sweat, work one's fingers to the bone, work day and night, work like a trojan, work like a dog, keep one's nose to the grindstone, exert oneself, grub, plod, plough
    work one's guts out, work one's socks off, kill oneself, sweat blood, knock oneself out, plug away, slog away
    graft, fag
    work one's arse off, work one's balls off, work one's nuts off
    work one's ass off, work one's butt off
    drudge, travail, moil
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    1. 1.1[with object]Subject (a device) to control by another.
      ‘should the need arise, the two channels can be slaved together’
      • ‘Slave your targeting telemetry to mine and wait for my command to fire.’
      • ‘During flight the missile is automatically slaved at about 0.5m above the line-of-sight to avoid obstacles.’
      • ‘You would be infecting the new machine when you slaved the drive.’
      • ‘In addition the gunner's primary sight is slaved to the main gun, which does not allow the gunner to acquire targets in a hull-down posture.’
      • ‘The roof sighting system is slaved to the pilot's helmet and as soon as a target is identified the fire-resolution computers calculate the future position of the target and aim the cannon at that future position.’
      • ‘It worked like a charm too - slaving the targeting telemetry.’
      • ‘The control system on the Moon can be slaved to individual receivers on Earth.’
      • ‘Another aspect that necessitates some planning is that the thermisters and fan controllers are slaved together in pairs.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The helmet measures the pilot's line of sight to the target so the sensors, avionics and weapons are slaved to the target.’
      • ‘In the second mode, the mobile terminal slaves its user pilot to the pilot it receives from the base station and the user data channel is synchronized with this slaved user pilot.’
      • ‘Modern combat was too fast for anything like that anymore, so the turret was permanently slaved to the co-pilot's seat.’
      • ‘An optional servo-controlled overhead weapons platform can be slaved to the commander's sight to allow operation independent from the turret.’


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