Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of slavery


  1. When a person (called "master") has absolute power over another (called "slave") including life and liberty. The slave has no freedom of action except within limits set by the master. The slave is considered to be the property of the master and can be sold, given away or killed. All the fruits of the slave's labor belongs to the master (see, for example, the extract from The 1740 South Carolina Slave Code in the History of the Law). Slavery was once very prevalent in the world but is now illegal in most countries.

Definition of slavery


    From slave +‎ -ery.



slavery (plural slaveries)

  1. An institution or social practice of owning human beings as property, especially for use as forced laborers.
  2. A condition of servitude endured by a slave.
  3. (figuratively) A condition in which one is captivated or subjugated, as by greed or drugs.

    * 1818, Percy Bysshe Shelley,"The Revolt of Islam", canto 8, stanza 16,
    Man seeks for gold in mines that he may weave / A lasting chain for his own slavery.

Further reading

Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation. Conditions that can be considered slavery include debt bondage, indentured servitude, serfdom, domestic servants kept in captivity, adoption in which children are effectively forced to work as slaves, child soldiers, and forced marriage.

Slavery predates written records and has existed in many cultures. The number of slaves today is higher than at any point in history, remaining as high as 12 million to 27 million, though this is probably the smallest proportion of the world's population in history. Most are debt slaves, largely in South Asia, who are under debt bondage incurred by lenders, sometimes even for generations. Human trafficking is primarily used for forcing women and children into sex industries.


- Chattel slavery

Chattel slavery, so named because people are treated as the personal property of an owner and are bought and sold as commodities, is the traditional form of slavery. It is the least prevalent form of slavery today.

- Bonded labor

Debt bondage or bonded labor is when a person pledges themselves against a loan. In debt bondage, the services required to repay the debt may be undefined, and the services' duration may be undefined. Debt bondage can be passed on from generation to generation. It is the most widespread form of slavery today.

- Human trafficking

Human trafficking is the illegal trade in human beings to work as slaves.

- Forced labor

Forced labor is when an individual is forced to work against their will, under threat of violence or other punishment, with restrictions on their freedom. It is also used to describe all types of slavery and may also include institutions not commonly classified as slavery, such as serfdom, conscription and penal labor.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     landed property
2.     lex fori
3.     status quo
4.     ownership
5.     lex loci delicti commissi
6.     lex situs
7.     sodomy
8.     lex causae
9.     unjustified
10.     AORO