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

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 WeWork’s travails will be the biggest public test yet of Mr. Son’s freewheeling and distinctive approach to investing. New York Times, "WeWork’s Efforts to Salvage I.P.O. Renew Fears About ‘Unicorn’ Era," 13 Sep. 2019 The daily travails of millions of people in Chennai are a harbinger of things to come for the country, warn experts, who say India faces a looming water crisis as its population grows, urbanization intensifies and global temperatures rise. Anchorage Daily News, "As a major Indian city runs out of water, 9 million people pray for rain," 2 July 2019 BHP’s travails were far from the worst mining problems in recent months, but things did go somewhat awry in the six months to December: Unplanned outages... Nathaniel Taplin, WSJ, "BHP: Everybody Hurts Sometimes," 19 Feb. 2019 Smith’s travails began on the evening of June 13, 1942. Scott W. Stern, Time, "The U.S. Detained 'Promiscuous' Women in What One Called a 'Concentration Camp.' That Word Choice Matters," 15 May 2018 Bivin’s personal travails are well known among Notre Dame upperclassmen. Mike Berardino, Indianapolis Star, "His football career didn't pan out — but Hunter Bivin is determined to guide Notre Dame's next generation," 9 Sep. 2019 Or perhaps 49ers fans will recall past travails at Tampa in season openers. Cam Inman, The Mercury News, "49ers at Buccaneers: What are keys to winning in Tampa Bay?," 6 Sep. 2019 My son, who’s a math junkie, couldn’t get enough of the math-nerd-saves-the-day scenes, only to give up on the movie when the Athletics’ travails in the field proved too stressful to watch. Alexandra Samuel, WSJ, "Nine Movies That Can Teach Your Children About Business," 25 Nov. 2018 The Office’’ is headed to Boston in November, attempting to wring laughs from the travails of the misfits at Dunder Mifflin (who were plenty funny to begin with). Don Aucoin, BostonGlobe.com, "Musical parody of ‘The Office’ headed to Boston," 4 Sep. 2019

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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Statistics for travail

Last Updated

26 Oct 2019

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
How to pronounce travail (audio)

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

More from Merriam-Webster on travail

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for travail

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with travail

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