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

FALLBROOK The Fallbrook Union High School District board met in closed session Monday to discuss personnel and labor negotiations. Laura Groch, San Diego Union-Tribune, "How they voted, July 14," 14 July 2019 Amazon joins a number of other companies who have announced multimillion-dollar investments in retraining in recent years, as a tightening labor market and technological change forces businesses to evolve. Louise Matsakis, WIRED, "Amazon Pledges $700 Million to Teach Its Workers to Code," 11 July 2019 The company incorporated its challenges in its labor negotiations by pushing to cut health-care costs and adjust benefits. Thomas Gryta, WSJ, "GE Union Workers Reject New Labor Deal," 10 July 2019 On an individual level, the only sure-fire way to put right a lot of millennials’ financial problems is to have an economy and a labor market that work for as many people as possible. The Economist, "Smashed like avocados: how young people are treated by their elders," 10 July 2019 For example, some of your colleagues might have been hired during a tight labor market and, as a result, were able to negotiate higher starting salaries. Johnny C. Taylor Jr., USA TODAY, "Woman seeks answers for equal pay: Ask HR," 9 July 2019 With an unemployment rate of 2.4%, near quarter-century lows, Japan’s labor market is tight. Bloomberg, The Mercury News, "Grannies in running shoes are delivering ramen for Uber in Japan," 5 July 2019 Despite the uncertain outcome of the labor negotiations with the BSO, families gathered for the music, food trucks and fireworks — an event many consider a part of the family tradition. Brittany Brown,, "'What we were trained to do': Locked-out Baltimore Symphony musicians play holiday concert at Oregon Ridge," 3 July 2019 The lower number, which some economists fear could indicate stagnation in the robust labor market, underscores the case for the Federal Reserve to cut rates at its July 30 two-day monetary policy meeting. NBC News, "Markets notch record highs across all major indexes," 3 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

But there is a very real crisis in terms of growing numbers of people laboring under five-figure debts, or less, that may never be affordable. The Economist, "Smashed like avocados: how young people are treated by their elders," 10 July 2019 Cousins labored with his conditioning and opponents often targeted him on switches. Mark Medina, The Mercury News, "NBA free agency: DeMarcus Cousins agrees to deal with Lakers," 6 July 2019 The third rescue occurred early Sunday when a Border Patrol agent found a 23-year-old El Salvadoran woman near Otay Mountain who had labored breathing. Karen Kucher, San Diego Union-Tribune, "7 unauthorized migrants rescued near Otay Mountain over the past week by Border Patrol agents," 2 July 2019 The only Democratic Senate incumbent who ran weaker relative to Clinton than Warren was Bob Menendez, who labored under a cloud of criminal charges. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Elizabeth Warren proved she’s ready for the big show," 27 June 2019 Aliyana, who lives in Falls Township, often experiences headaches, labored breathing and pain crises — a severe attack due to malformed cells blocking blood vessels. Cassie Owens,, "This Bucks County teen isn't letting sickle cell stop her pageant dreams," 17 May 2018 Argentina, which labored through the group stage, enjoyed an easier time in the first knockout round, beating Venezuela 2-0 on goals from Lautaro Martinez and Giovani Lo Celso. Avi Creditor,, "LIVE: Brazil, Argentina Battle for Place in Copa America Final," 2 July 2019 So much for Stephen Curry building off his 47-point performance in Game 3 by laboring with 28 points while going only 9-of-22 from the field and 2-of-9 from deep. Mark Medina, The Mercury News, "Raptors 105; Warriors 92: Warriors crumble in what could be final game at Oracle Arena," 7 June 2019 Starter Ryan Carpenter labored early and needed 73 pitches to get through three innings. Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press, "Miggy homers, but Tigers get crushed in 13-4 loss to Indians," 14 June 2019

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

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an act or instance of editing or removing

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