- One who is owned as the property of someone else, especially in involuntary servitude.
- One who is subservient to or controlled by another: his boss's slave.
- One who is subject to or controlled by a specified influence: a slave to alcohol; a slave to an irrational fear.
- One who works extremely hard.
- One who acts out the role of the submissive partner in a sadomasochistic relationship.
- A slave ant.
- A machine or component controlled by another machine or component.
intransitive verbslaved, slav·ing, slaves
- To work very hard or doggedly; toil.
- To trade in or transport slaves.
- To cause a machine or component to be controlled by another machine or component.
Origin of slave
Middle English sclave from
Old French esclave from
Medieval Latin sclāvus from Sclāvus Slav (from the widespread enslavement of captured Slavs in the early Middle Ages)
; see Slav
. Word History:
The derivation of the word slave
encapsulates a bit of European history and explains why the two words slave
are so similar; they are, in fact, historically identical. The word slave
first appears in English around 1290, spelled sclave.
The spelling is based on Old French esclave
from Medieval Latin sclavus,
“Slav, slave,” first recorded around 800. Sclavus
comes from Byzantine Greek sklabos
(pronounced sklä′vōs) “Slav,” which appears around 580. Sklavos
approximates the Slavs' own name for themselves, the Slověnci,
surviving in English Slovene
The spelling of English slave,
closer to its original Slavic form, first appears in English in the 1500s. Slavs became slaves around the beginning of the ninth century when the Holy Roman Empire tried to stabilize a German-Slav frontier. By the 1100s, stabilization had given way to wars of expansion and extermination that did not end until 1410, when the Poles crushed the knights of the Teutonic Order at Grunwald in north-central Poland. • As far as the Slavs' own self-designation goes, its meaning is, understandably, better than “slave”; it comes from the Indo-European root *kleu-,
whose basic meaning is “to hear” and occurs in many derivatives meaning “renown, fame.” The Slavs are thus “the famous people.” Slavic names ending in -slav
incorporate the same word, such as Czech Bohu-slav,
“God's fame,” Russian Msti-slav,
“vengeful fame,” and Polish Stani-slaw,
“famous for withstanding (enemies).”