travail

noun
tra·​vail | \ trə-ˈvāl How to pronounce travail (audio) , ˈtra-ˌvāl\

Definition of travail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : work especially of a painful or laborious nature : toil
b : a physical or mental exertion or piece of work : task, effort
c : agony, torment

travail

verb
tra·​vail | \ trə-ˈvāl How to pronounce travail (audio) , ˈtra-ˌvāl; in prayer-​book communion service usually ˈtra-ˌvāl\
travailed; travailing; travails

Definition of travail (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to labor hard : toil

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Choose the Right Synonym for travail

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

Did You Know?

Noun

Etymologists are pretty certain that travail comes from trepalium, the Late Latin name of an instrument of torture. We don't know exactly what a trepalium looked like, but the word's history gives us an idea. Trepalium is derived from the Latin tripalis, which means "having three stakes" (from tri-, meaning "three," and palus, meaning "stake"). From trepalium sprang the Anglo-French verb travailler, which originally meant "to torment" but eventually acquired the milder senses "to trouble" and "to journey." The Anglo-French noun travail was borrowed into English in the 13th century, followed about a century later by travel, another descendant of travailler.

Examples of travail in a Sentence

Noun

They finally succeeded after many months of travail. no greater travail than that of parents who have suffered the death of a child

Verb

Labor Day is the day on which we recognize those men and women who daily travail with little appreciation or compensation.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

But until this weekend, there were few indications that the 2015 lawsuit filed in San Mateo County Court would play a role in the company’s travails. Deepa Seetharaman, WSJ, "Facebook’s Latest Headache Is a Bikini App That Shut Down in 2015," 25 Nov. 2018 Meanwhile, the travails of the German car industry are cited, most recently by the Bundesbank, as a factor in Europe’s sudden and ominous economic slowdown. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "The Lessons of ‘Dieselgate’," 4 Jan. 2019 Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News At heart, however, the travails of the car stem from the shifting relationship between people and their automobiles. Mike Colias, WSJ, "America Has Fallen Out of Love With the Sedan," 25 Aug. 2018 To be fair, the book is barely mentioned after the setup, and the focus shifts to the characters’ romantic travails and the gluey life lessons to be learned from them. Ty Burr, BostonGlobe.com, "Stars — and audience — deserve better than ‘Book Club’," 17 May 2018 Custom Portrait by Anamaria Morris; price upon request; www.portraitsbyam.com Ah the travails of framing: the expense, the endless choices. Chloe Schama, Vogue, "The 10 Best Gift Ideas for Art Lovers," 16 Nov. 2018 My travails to snag it — risking it being seized by customs, overpaying sellers, weathering formula changes — surely rival those of the Arthurian knights who searched for their own Holy Grail in medieval lore. Cheryl Wischhover, Vox, "The “best” lipstick probably won’t change your life — but the search for it can," 12 Dec. 2018 Wells Fargo ’s long regulatory travails show how getting on U.S. regulators’ bad side can result in years of compliance headaches. Aaron Back, WSJ, "Goldman Wakes Up to 1MDB Reckoning," 17 Nov. 2018 Glencore’s travails may be the result of Mr Kabila—who has overstayed his second, and supposedly final, term in office—squeezing mining firms for cash to stay in power. The Economist, "Glencore, a hard-slugging mining giant, meets its match in Congo," 3 May 2018

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

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for travail

Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from travailler to torment, labor, journey, from Vulgar Latin *trepaliare to torture, from Late Latin trepalium instrument of torture, from Latin tripalis having three stakes, from tri- + palus stake — more at pole

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Dictionary Entries near travail

traumatropic

traumatropism

trav

travail

Travancore

travated

trave

Statistics for travail

Last Updated

16 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for travail

The first known use of travail was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for travail

travail

noun

English Language Learners Definition of travail

formal : a difficult experience or situation
literary : painful or difficult work or effort

travail

noun
tra·​vail | \ trə-ˈvā(ə)l How to pronounce travail (audio) , ˈtrav-ˌāl How to pronounce travail (audio) \

Medical Definition of travail

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with travail

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for travail

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