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noun tra·vail \trə-ˈvāl, ˈtra-ˌvāl\

Simple Definition of travail

  • : a difficult experience or situation

  • : painful or difficult work or effort

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of travail

  1. 1a :  work especially of a painful or laborious nature :  toilb :  a physical or mental exertion or piece of work :  task, effortc :  agony, torment

  2. 2 :  labor, parturition

Examples of travail in a sentence

  1. They finally succeeded after many months of travail.

  2. <no greater travail than that of parents who have suffered the death of a child>

Did You Know?

Etymologists are pretty certain that travail comes from trepalium, the Late Latin name of an instrument of torture. We don't know exactly what a trepalium looked like, but the word's history gives us an idea. Trepalium is derived from the Latin tripalis, which means "having three stakes" (from tri-, meaning "three," and palus, meaning "stake"). From trepalium sprang the Anglo-French verb travailler, which originally meant "to torment" but eventually acquired the milder senses "to trouble" and "to journey." The Anglo-French noun travail was borrowed into English in the 13th century, followed about a century later by travel, another descendant of travailler.

Origin and Etymology of travail

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from travailler to torment, labor, journey, from Vulgar Latin *trepaliare to torture, from Late Latin trepalium instrument of torture, from Latin tripalis having three stakes, from tri- + palus stake — more at pole

First Known Use: 13th century

Synonym Discussion of travail

work, labor, travail, toil, drudgery, grind mean activity involving effort or exertion. work may imply activity of body, of mind, of a machine, or of a natural force <too tired to do any work>. labor applies to physical or intellectual work involving great and often strenuous exertion <farmers demanding fair compensation for their labor>. travail is bookish for labor involving pain or suffering <years of travail were lost when the house burned>. toil implies prolonged and fatiguing labor <his lot would be years of back-breaking toil>. drudgery suggests dull and irksome labor <an editorial job with a good deal of drudgery>. grind implies labor exhausting to mind or body <the grind of the assembly line>.

work, employment, occupation, calling, pursuit, métier, business mean a specific sustained activity engaged in especially in earning one's living. work may apply to any purposeful activity whether remunerative or not <her work as a hospital volunteer>. employment implies work for which one has been engaged and is being paid by an employer <your employment with this firm is hereby terminated>. occupation implies work in which one engages regularly especially as a result of training <his occupation as a trained auto mechanic>. calling applies to an occupation viewed as a vocation or profession <the ministry seemed my true calling>. pursuit suggests a trade, profession, or avocation followed with zeal or steady interest <her family considered medicine the only proper pursuit>. métier implies a calling or pursuit for which one believes oneself to be especially fitted <acting was my one and only métier>. business suggests activity in commerce or the management of money and affairs <the business of managing a hotel>.



intransitive verb tra·vail \same as 1; in prayer-book communion service usually ˈtra-ˌvāl\

Definition of travail

  1. 1 :  to labor hard :  toil

  2. 2 :  labor 3

Examples of travail in a sentence

  1. <Labor Day is the day on which we recognize those men and women who daily travail with little appreciation or compensation.>

13th Century

First Known Use of travail

13th century

Medical Dictionary


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noun tra·vail \trə-ˈvā(ə)l, ˈtrav-ˌāl\

Medical Definition of travail

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