labor

noun
la·​bor | \ ˈlā-bər How to pronounce labor (audio) \

Definition of labor

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : expenditure of physical or mental effort especially when difficult or compulsory was sentenced to six months at hard labor
b(1) : human activity that provides the goods or services in an economy Industry needs labor for production.
(2) : the services performed by workers for wages as distinguished from those rendered by entrepreneurs for profits
c : the physical activities (such as dilation of the cervix and contraction of the uterus) involved in giving birth also : the period of such labor
2 : an act or process requiring labor : task The three-month project evolved into a year-long labor.
3 : a product of labor The flood destroyed the labor of years.
4a : an economic group comprising those who do manual labor or work for wages wants the vote of labor in the elections
b(1) : workers employed in an establishment
(2) : workers available for employment Immigrants provided a source of cheap labor.
c : the organizations or officials representing groups of workers negotiations between labor and management
5 usually Labour : the Labour party of the United Kingdom or of another part of the Commonwealth of Nations

labor

verb
labored; laboring\ ˈlā-​b(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce laboring (audio) \

Definition of labor (Entry 2 of 3)

intransitive verb

1 : to exert one's powers of body or mind especially with painful or strenuous effort : work
2 : to move with great effort the truck labored up the hill
3 : to be in the labor of giving birth
4 : to suffer from some disadvantage or distress labor under a delusion
5 of a ship : to pitch or roll heavily

transitive verb

1 archaic

a : to spend labor on or produce by labor
b : to strive to effect or achieve
2 : to treat or work out in often laborious detail labor the obvious
4 : to cause to labor

labor

adjective

Definition of labor (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : of or relating to labor
2 capitalized : of, relating to, or constituting a political party held to represent the interests of workers or made up largely of organized labor groups

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Choose the Right Synonym for labor

Noun

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

Noun

labor and work mean action involving effort or exertion. work can apply to either mental or physical effort and may involve something that is enjoyable but tiring. Decorating the gym was hard work. labor suggests great or unpleasant usually physical exertion. She dreaded the dull labor of cleaning.

Examples of labor in a Sentence

Noun

A day's labor should get the job done. Getting the job done will require many hours of difficult labor. He rested from his labors. The cost of repairing the car includes parts and labor. an area in which there is a shortage of cheap labor The proposed new law is opposed by organized labor. She went into labor this morning. She has been in labor for several hours. She began to have labor pains this morning. She had a difficult labor.

Verb

Workers labored in the vineyard. He labored for several years as a miner. She has labored in vain to convince them to accept her proposal. We should honor those who labored so long to make the truth known. The truck labored up the hill. I have been laboring through this book for months. She has a tendency to labor the obvious.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The Mexican auto industry will raise its minimum wage and some other labor standards. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "I’m starting to think Mexico isn’t going to pay for the wall," 20 Dec. 2018 The fate of workers will depend on certain employer constraints, labor laws and regulations, and whether there’s a good enough system in place to transition people into new roles or industries. Nick Statt, The Verge, "The AI boom is happening all over the world, and it’s accelerating quickly," 12 Dec. 2018 But Seattle’s government is spending even more, creating new offices for education, immigrant affairs and labor standards, and boosting the city’s spending on homeless services. Daniel Beekman, The Seattle Times, "Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan unveils $5.9 billion budget proposal," 24 Sep. 2018 According to the International Labor Organization, a U.N. agency focused on setting labor standards and policies, a child is not allowed to work below a country's minimum legal age, which is 15 in most nations. Sam Mednick, Fox News, "In South Sudan, some children work in mines to survive," 12 Sep. 2018 But several organizations such as Tech Workers Coalition and coworker.org are helping techies learn new skills like building consensus across workgroups, drafting effective petitions, and protecting themselves under labor law. Joseph Menn, The Christian Science Monitor, "Silicon Valley employees increasingly push companies on ethics," 13 July 2018 In a 2008 dissent, Judge Kavanaugh argued undocumented workers are not protected by labor laws. Sam Dangremond, Town & Country, "Yale Law Students and Alumni Denounce School's Support of Brett Kavanaugh," 11 July 2018 In a 2008 dissent, Judge Kavanaugh argued undocumented workers are not protected by labor laws. Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, "Yale students and alumni blast law school for praising Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s choice for Supreme Court," 11 July 2018 The suit, filed by Noel Cintron in Manhattan Supreme Court on Monday, seeks $178,200 for overtime pay and $5,000 in penalties in accordance with New York’s labor laws. Mckenna Moore, Fortune, "Donald Trump Is Sued by Former Driver for Overtime Pay," 9 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In the next mural, two Hispanic women are at work on an adobe building, while a man labors in a field. Mary Hudetz, The Seattle Times, "University head recommends covering controversial murals," 9 Oct. 2018 Galloway watched toddlers laboring in his lab to build their strength and coordination. Kate Horowitz, Popular Mechanics, "Why Power Wheels Are the Perfect Physical Therapy Tool for Kids," 9 Aug. 2016 Eileen spends her evenings pacifying her alcoholic father with bottles of booze, and her days laboring as a secretary at a correctional facility for boys. New York Times, "A Woman Sleeps a Year Away in Ottessa Moshfegh’s Darkly Comic New Novel," 6 July 2018 The company labored to monitor and control the supply chain, challenging entrenched relationships that tie rural villages to cities through an opaque web of middlemen in the informal economy. Bill Spindle, WSJ, "A Milk Startup Takes On 300 Million Cows," 7 July 2018 Expensive signings have flopped, and the club is laboring under considerable debt. New York Times, "Election Day for a Beleaguered Turkish Soccer Power," 1 June 2018 Freddie Hernández’s mother spent long, exhausting days cleaning homes, while his father labored under an intense sun in his work in the field of construction. Johanes Rosello, ajc, "Nuestra Comunidad: Hispanic student realizes dream to attend college," 4 May 2018 Workers are laboring under crushing caseloads and turnover is high at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, charged with looking after the welfare of children and vulnerable adults. Deborah Yetter, The Courier-Journal, "Under Bevin's budget, better days could be ahead for foster children and social workers," 19 Jan. 2018 Gellhorn wrote here too, completing two novels, A Stricken Field and Liana, and a collection of stories, The Heart of Another, during the same period when Hemingway was laboring over his Spanish Civil War masterpiece. Paula Mclain, Town & Country, "The Extraordinary Life of Martha Gellhorn, the Woman Ernest Hemingway Tried to Erase," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The longer labor laws stand still, the better corporations get maneuvering around them. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump’s Labor Board Delivers Big Blow to Fast-Food Workers," 15 Dec. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word '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 labor

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Adjective

1526, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for labor

Noun, Verb, and Adjective

Middle English, from Anglo-French labur, from Latin labor; perhaps akin to Latin labare to totter, labi to slip — more at sleep

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More Definitions for labor

labor

noun

English Language Learners Definition of labor

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: physical or mental effort
: work for which someone is paid
: workers considered as a group

labor

verb

English Language Learners Definition of labor (Entry 2 of 2)

: to do work
: to work hard in order to achieve something
: to move or proceed with effort

labor

noun
la·​bor | \ ˈlā-bər How to pronounce labor (audio) \

Kids Definition of labor

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : usually hard physical or mental effort
2 : something that has to be done : task Now a procession of ants appeared … and went about their labors— Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer
3 : work for which someone is paid The bill included parts and labor.
4 : workers considered as a group There's a shortage of skilled labor.
5 : the process by which or time during which a woman gives birth

labor

verb
labored; laboring

Kids Definition of labor (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to work hard : toil Workers labored in the field.
2 : to move slowly and with great effort The truck labored up the hill.

labor

noun
la·​bor
variants: or British labour \ ˈlā-​bər How to pronounce labour (audio) \

Medical Definition of labor

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the physical activities involved in childbirth consisting essentially of a prolonged series of involuntary contractions of the uterine musculature together with both reflex and voluntary contractions of the abdominal wall drugs that induce labor went into labor after a fall also : the period of time during which such labor takes place
variants: or British labour

Medical Definition of labor (Entry 2 of 2)

: to be in the labor of giving birth

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More from Merriam-Webster on labor

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with labor

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for labor

Spanish Central: Translation of labor

Nglish: Translation of labor for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of labor for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about labor

Comments on labor

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