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According to those proposing a change in terminology, "slave" perpetuates the crime of slavery in language, by reducing its victims to a nonhuman noun instead of, according to Andi Cumbo-Floyd, "carry[ing] them forward as people, not the property that they were".

Other historians prefer "slave" because the term is familiar and shorter, or because it accurately reflects the inhumanity of slavery, with "person" implying a degree of autonomy that slavery does not allow for.

A slave is unable to withdraw unilaterally from such an arrangement and works without remuneration.

Many scholars now use the term chattel slavery to refer to this specific sense of legalised, de jure slavery.

Slavery is more common when the labor done is relatively simple and thus easy to supervise, such as large-scale growing of a single crop, like sugar and cotton, in which output was based on economies of scale.