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


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



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


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

Walmart is competing with other major employers to find and retain higher quality, entry level employees in a historically strong labor market. Washington Post, "Walmart extends debt-free college benefits to high schoolers," 4 June 2019 Walmart is extending its debt-free college benefits to high schoolers as a way to attract and retain workers in a tight labor market. Anne D'innocenzio,, "To attract high school workers, Walmart will offer SAT and ACT prep, pay for some online college classes," 4 June 2019 From simple boxed dye sets to the slightly more labor-intensive DIY natural pigments, decorating Easter eggs has long been a family tradition many of us look forward to year after year. Country Living, "How to Make Shaving Cream Easter Eggs for Your Most Colorful Holiday Yet," 15 Mar. 2019 Unlike celebrities who apply a light layer of tinted moisturizer and call it a day, Gray’s pageant makeup is unapologetically labor intensive. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Watch Catriona Gray Do the Makeup She Wore to Win Miss Universe," 20 Feb. 2019 Sofas made this way also happen to be the most labor-intensive, and thus, expensive. Hadley Mendelsohn, House Beautiful, "Everything You Need to Know About 8-Way Hand-Tied Sofas," 5 Jan. 2019 Journalism was labor-intensive and thus also expensive. David Roberts, Vox, "My advice for aspiring explainer journalists," 9 Dec. 2018 Marijuana farming remains pretty labor-intensive and relatively specialized. Angela Chen, The Verge, "Why the future of marijuana farming could be craft weed," 21 Nov. 2018 The drinks here are labor intensive, but the staff really knows its stuff. Jennifer Bradley Franklin, Condé Nast Traveler, "10 Best Coffee Shops in Atlanta," 22 Aug. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Castillo labored through his first few innings, struggling to generate many swings and misses with his off-speed pitches. Bobby Nightengale,, "José Peraza's big night lifts the Cincinnati Reds to a win over St. Louis Cardinals," 5 June 2019 Workers also labored around the clock to pump water out of the cave. Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Fox News, "Thai cave rescue timeline: The dangerous race to bring trapped soccer team home," 18 July 2018 The starter In trying to perfect his curveball Tuesday night, starter Ian Kennedy labored through four innings. Maria Torres, kansascity, "Royals 10, Giants 1: Power output continues with five more KC homers | The Kansas City Star," 21 Mar. 2018 At a large lab at Tweed, for example, scientists are laboring away under fume hoods on marijuana drinks. Ian Austen, The Seattle Times, "Dreams of big profits as marijuana becomes legal in Canada," 16 Oct. 2018 In that game, Simmons batted fifth in a lineup that at times genuinely labored, the Angels finishing 22nd in baseball in runs. Jeff Miller,, "Andrelton Simmons looks to build on last year's offense," 5 Mar. 2018 The teen, who seemed to be laboring to breathe, kept asking for police — briefly pausing between each word to try to catch his breath. Herman Wong And Lindsey Bever,, "Police responding to dying Ohio teen's 911 call stayed in patrol car, body cam shows," 22 Apr. 2018 Paul seemed to be laboring after opening the fourth quarter with a jump shot. Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle, "Rockets' Trevor Ariza, Chris Paul leave game early with injuries," 28 Jan. 2018 Often kids are more in tune with what the laboring person needs than some adults. Emma Baty, Redbook, "7 Birth Photographers Reveal the Coolest Thing They've Seen In the Delivery Room," 9 June 2017

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

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



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 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


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 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 Encyclopedia article about labor

Comments on labor

What made you want to look up labor? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

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