la·bor | \ ˈlā-bər \

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


labored; laboring\ˈlā-b(ə-)riŋ \

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



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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Synonyms & Antonyms for labor

Synonyms: Noun

drudgery, grind, slavery, sweat, toil, travail

Synonyms: Verb

bang away, dig (away), drudge, endeavor, grub, hump, hustle, moil, peg (away), plod, plow, plug, slave, slog, strain, strive, struggle, sweat, toil, travail, tug, work

Antonyms: Noun

fun, play

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Choose the Right Synonym for labor


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


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


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.


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

Shiru’s success highlights the manifold ways that companies can ride the flood of consumer data — whether to sell consumers a product or, in the case of Shiru, to find workers in a competitive labor market. Graham Ambrose,, "Free coffee — with a catch — is coming to Massachusetts," 14 July 2018 Other data on Thursday showed first-time applications for unemployment benefits dropped to a two-month low last week as the labor market strengthened further. Tory Newmyer, Washington Post, "The Finance 202: Mnuchin is in denial about the pain Trump's tariffs are inducing," 13 July 2018 In parts of India, growing one long nail has traditionally been viewed as a status symbol to show that the person doesn’t need to participate in manual labor. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Man With World’s Longest Fingernails Finally Gets a Manicure," 13 July 2018 More: Flexible hours, $10,000 referral fee: Small businesses get creative to hire in tight labor market More: Get out! Steve Strauss, USA TODAY, "Get your gig: Here are the 9 best sites to visit for freelance or contract work," 12 July 2018 But despite its good intentions, Paid Off accidentally provides a kind of bubbly simulation of the labor market. Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, "Win a Game Show, Pay Off Your Student Debt," 12 July 2018 There have always been shifts in technology that have transformed labor markets. Amy Chance, sacbee, "'Not all machines are evil,' and other thoughts on California's changing economy," 2 July 2018 That unburdens mothers, to some extent, from their disproportionate share of unpaid labor, leaving them more time to dedicate to work. Claire Zillman, Fortune, "Oprah Winfrey Empire, Angela Merkel, Paternity Leave: Broadsheet July 12th," 12 July 2018 The hard Brexiteers are particularly opposed to any deal that requires Britain to remain open to the free movement of labor across its borders with the E.U. Jonah Shepp, Daily Intelligencer, "The Brexit Crisis Finally Engulfs the Party That Started It," 11 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Federal workers had labored late into the night to push through reunifications, but still there were glitches. Annie Correal, New York Times, "‘Mi Amor!’: Tearful Scenes as Immigrant Reunions Begin in New York," 11 July 2018 Meanwhile, a police department that has labored to overcome a reputation for violence is being criticized by demonstrators as overly aggressive. Chris Palmer,, "For 'Abolish ICE' protesters and the targets of their ire, what's next?," 6 July 2018 For the past decade, Duster and a few friends have labored, dollar by dollar, to raise $300,000 to build a monument to Wells. Peter Slevin,, "'You can’t just gloss over this history': The movement to honor Ida B. Wells gains momentum," 18 June 2018 Pua'ena Ahn, who lives in Hilo, complained about having labored breathing, itchy, watery eyes and some skin irritation from airborne ash., "'Excited And Scared': Hawaii Volcano Spews Huge Cloud of Ash," 18 May 2018 Also similar to New Orleans, Albuquerque's police force has labored under a federal consent decree since 2014 that has obliged the city to commit an extra $4 million annually, according to Keller's report. Beau Evans,, "Cantrell's top aide at City Hall promises 'fresh, new, dynamic ideas' for New Orleans," 2 May 2018 The rest of the American League Central Division has labored to draw fans in April, too. Maria Torres, kansascity, "The Royals struggled to sell tickets in April. Weather wasn't the only issue | The Kansas City Star," 30 Apr. 2018 Mahle never looked fully comfortable on the mound, laboring through the first two innings. Bobby Nightengale,, "Tyler Mahle roughed up, Cincinnati Reds crushed in 19-4 loss to Cleveland Indians," 11 July 2018 Other times, Lopez has looked like the pitcher who hadn’t pitched above High-A entering this season, spraying hits around the yard, and laboring through innings that dragged on. Matthew Defranks,, "Pablo Lopez, Marlins can't overcome rocky start in loss to Brewers," 11 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


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


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


1526, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for labor


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


see labor entry 1


see labor entry 1

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Learn More about labor

Statistics for labor

Last Updated

13 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for labor

The first known use of labor was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for labor



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



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


la·bor | \ ˈlā-bər \

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


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.


variants: or British labour \ˈlā-bər \

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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Comments on labor

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the setting in which something occurs

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