Servant vs. Slave

What's the Difference?

Servant and slave are two terms often used to describe individuals who perform labor or service for others. However, there are distinct differences between the two. A servant typically works for wages or a salary and has the freedom to choose their occupation and employer. They have certain rights and can negotiate the terms of their employment. On the other hand, a slave is someone who is owned by another person and is considered their property. Slavery involves the complete loss of personal freedom and autonomy, with slaves being forced to work without pay and subjected to harsh treatment. While both servants and slaves may perform similar tasks, the fundamental distinction lies in the level of control and ownership exerted over them.


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DefinitionA person who performs duties for others, often in a domestic setting.A person who is owned by another person and is forced to work without consent.
Voluntary/InvoluntaryVoluntary - Servants choose to work for others.Involuntary - Slaves are forced to work against their will.
Legal StatusServants have legal rights and protections.Slavery is illegal in most countries.
OwnershipServants are not owned by their employers.Slaves are owned by their masters.
CompensationServants receive wages or other forms of payment.Slaves do not receive compensation for their work.
FreedomServants have the freedom to leave their employment.Slaves are not free and cannot leave their situation.
Human RightsServants have their human rights protected.Slaves are denied basic human rights.
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Further Detail


When discussing the attributes of servants and slaves, it is important to recognize the historical and social contexts in which these roles have existed. Both servants and slaves have been integral parts of societies throughout history, but their positions and treatment have varied significantly. In this article, we will explore the attributes of servants and slaves, highlighting their differences and similarities.

Definition and Role

A servant is an individual who is employed to perform various tasks and duties for another person or household. They are typically hired and compensated for their services, and their work is often voluntary. Servants may work in various capacities, such as housekeeping, cooking, gardening, or personal assistance, depending on the needs of their employers.

On the other hand, a slave is a person who is considered the property of another individual or entity. Slavery involves the complete ownership and control of one person by another, often without any compensation or personal freedom. Slaves are typically forced to work under harsh conditions, without the ability to choose their tasks or negotiate their terms of service.

Voluntary vs. Coerced

One of the key distinctions between servants and slaves lies in the voluntary or coerced nature of their roles. Servants willingly enter into employment agreements, often seeking opportunities for work and compensation. They have the freedom to negotiate their terms of service, and they can choose to leave their positions if they are dissatisfied.

On the other hand, slaves have no choice in their servitude. They are forcibly enslaved, often through capture, purchase, or inheritance. Slavery is imposed upon them without their consent, and they are denied the freedom to leave or negotiate their conditions. Slavery is a system of oppression and exploitation, where individuals are treated as property rather than human beings.

Legal Status and Rights

In many societies, servants have enjoyed certain legal protections and rights. They are recognized as employees and are entitled to fair treatment, compensation, and sometimes even benefits. Servants may have the ability to seek legal recourse if their rights are violated or if they face mistreatment in their employment.

Slaves, on the other hand, have historically been denied legal rights and protections. They are considered the property of their owners, with no legal standing or agency. Slavery often involves the complete dehumanization of individuals, stripping them of their basic human rights and subjecting them to brutal treatment and exploitation.

Power Dynamics

The power dynamics between servants and slaves also differ significantly. Servants typically work under the authority of their employers, but they may have some degree of autonomy and influence within their roles. They can negotiate their tasks, working hours, and compensation, and their employers rely on their skills and expertise.

Slaves, on the other hand, have no power or agency within their positions. They are completely subservient to their owners, who hold absolute control over their lives and labor. Slavery is characterized by an extreme power imbalance, where the slave owner exercises complete dominance and the slave is subjected to their will.

Social Perception and Stigma

Throughout history, servants have generally held a higher social status compared to slaves. Servants are often seen as individuals who provide valuable services and contribute to the functioning of households or institutions. While there may be some social stigma associated with certain servant roles, such as domestic work, servants are generally not subjected to the same level of dehumanization and discrimination as slaves.

Slavery, on the other hand, has been universally condemned as a grave violation of human rights. Slaves have historically been subjected to intense social stigma, discrimination, and dehumanization. They are often seen as property rather than individuals, and their humanity is denied by the societies that perpetuate slavery.


In conclusion, while both servants and slaves have played important roles in societies throughout history, their attributes and positions are fundamentally different. Servants are voluntary workers who have the ability to negotiate their terms of service and enjoy certain legal protections. Slaves, on the other hand, are coerced into servitude, denied basic rights, and subjected to extreme power imbalances and dehumanization. It is crucial to recognize and condemn the institution of slavery, while also acknowledging the agency and rights of individuals in servant roles.

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