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

Mason Jackson, president and CEO of CareerSource Broward, said Florida’s construction industry continues to grow, which is resulting in labor shortages. Marcia Heroux Pounds,, "Construction job fair July 11 in Broward," 5 July 2018 The report said industries like hospitality, manufacturing and meatpacking are facing labor shortages because of the slowdown in refugees. Phillip Molnar,, "Will a slowdown in refugees hurt San Diego County’s economy?," 29 June 2018 Some say The Spotted Pig should just shut down and, given New York’s restaurant labor shortage, those employees will have an easy time finding jobs elsewhere. Jaya Saxena, GQ, "The Problem with Redemption," 15 June 2018 That’s a missed opportunity for an economy battling a growth-sapping labor shortage. Elisabeth Behrmann,, "Germany’s Big Pay-Gap Problem," 3 June 2018 But the industry’s workforce is climbing more slowly than oil prices and production, and labor shortages have quickly materialized. Collin Eaton, San Antonio Express-News, "CEO pay towers over median salary of workers," 29 May 2018 That ruling overturned the 2015 decision by the state labor board, formally known as the Public Employment Relations Board. David Garrick,, "If state Supreme Court rules against San Diego on pensions, it could could cost city millions," 14 July 2018 Raber, along with The Center’s executive director Dave Sanders, are overseeing the project, with equipment and labor donations coming from within the fellowship as well as across the country. Donna Vickroy, Daily Southtown, "The Center's new commercial-grade kitchen to honor Homer Glen man who battled heroin addiction," 14 July 2018 Leaders from Stockton and San Bernardino, Calif., meanwhile, are interested in developing a ministry to help farmworkers who have struggled with labor rights, Segura said. Vikki Ortiz,, "'Chicago is the lighthouse': Local Catholic leaders take the lead in supporting immigrants," 13 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In less than a minute, a once-mighty man unaccustomed to laboring in anonymity was returned to the light on the strength of the defining characteristic of his life as an athlete: swift and sudden violence. Robert Klemko,, "Greg Hardy, the UFC and the Limits of the Second Chance," 25 June 2018 He hadn’t won in two years and was laboring in the final round. Steve Dimeglio, USA TODAY, "Jack Nicklaus says Tiger Woods has to learn how to win again," 29 May 2018 After laboring through a tough stretch of four close losses in five games, David Padgett's team regained some confidence in the process of notching its second consecutive blowout win. Jeff Greer, The Courier-Journal, "'A breath taken': Louisville basketball lets out frustrations with blowout wins," 11 Feb. 2018 The National Institutes of Health has published research on the importance of women laboring in a private setting. Mariko Zapf, Good Housekeeping, "I Had A Successful Vaginal Birth After A Cesarean (VBAC)—Here's What You Need To Know," 16 Nov. 2017 In his last start Saturday against the Phillies, Hellickson labored through 98 pitches in 4 2/3 innings while allowing three runs. Matthew Defranks,, "Preview: Marlins at Nationals, Thursday, 7:05 p.m.," 4 July 2018 Cole labored through six innings, requiring 103 pitches while generating just 10 swings and misses. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Rare rough showing from Astros results in loss to Rays," 29 June 2018 Trump and Kim’s representatives labored Monday at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel to find agreement on the substance of an eventual nuclear arms deal. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: North Korea summit prep encapsulates Trump’s winging-it presidency," 11 June 2018 Nolan Kingham labored through 95 on Saturday, days after having a cyst removed. Nick Moyle, San Antonio Express-News, "Bocchi, Clemens lead Texas to CWS for 36th time," 11 June 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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Statistics for labor

Last Updated

8 Nov 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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playful or foolish behavior

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