hard labor


Definition of hard labor 

: compulsory labor of imprisoned criminals as a part of the prison discipline

Examples of hard labor in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

He had been arrested in January 2016 and accused of stealing a propaganda poster and was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor. Adam Shaw, Fox News, "Pompeo arrives in North Korea to prepare for meeting with Kim Jong Un," 2 Oct. 2018 But in the few weeks between his trial and execution date, more than 20,000 people signed a petition on his behalf, and the powers that be ended up commuting his sentence to life imprisonment and hard labor. Alexandra Mullen, WSJ, "‘Conan Doyle for the Defense’ Review: The Case of the Innocent Man," 26 July 2018 Fifteen years of forced hard labor, bound ankle to wrist in chains, simply wasn’t proportionate to the offense of fudging a payroll ledger. Clifton Leaf, Fortune, "Brainstorm Health: Cruel and Unusual, Amazon and PillPack, Biotech IPO Madness," 28 June 2018 Americans held in North Korean prisons have endured hard labor, some were kept at times in total darkness under conditions so bleak that one prisoner tried to kill himself, and succeeded in doing so after his release. Andrew Selsky, BostonGlobe.com, "Previously released prisoners report harshness in N. Korea," 10 May 2018 North Korean authorities arrested him in October 2015 and later sentenced him to 10 years of hard labor for espionage and subversion. Alex Ward, Vox, "North Korea has just released 3 American hostages," 9 May 2018 The 22-year-old was convicted and sentenced to 15 years' hard labor, but was released 17-months later suffering from extensive brain damage. Saphora Smith, NBC News, "Fred Warmbier: North Korea ‘not really participating’ in Winter Olympics," 10 Feb. 2018 The envoy had repatriated American college student Otto Warmbier, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor for stealing a propaganda poster. BostonGlobe.com, "3 Americans freed by North Korea reunited with families," 13 May 2018 This duty spared him some of the hard labor and indiscriminate brutality that befell other captives and allowed him to join an underground resistance that secretly assumed leadership roles within the camps, roles that continued after liberation. Emanuella Grinberg, Smithsonian, "When a Bavarian Monastery Provided a Home to Jewish Refugees," 11 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hard labor.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of hard labor

1651, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for hard labor

Last Updated

26 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for hard labor

The first known use of hard labor was in 1651

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hard labor


Legal Definition of hard labor 

: compulsory labor imposed upon prisoners as part of a sentence or as prison discipline

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a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

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