\ˈwərk \
worked\ˈwərkt \ or wrought\ˈrȯt \; working

Definition of work 

(Entry 1 of 3)

intransitive verb

1a : to perform work or fulfill duties regularly for wages or salary works in publishing

b : to perform or carry through a task requiring sustained effort or continuous repeated operations worked all day over a hot stove

c : to exert oneself physically or mentally especially in sustained effort for a purpose or under compulsion or necessity

2 : to function or operate according to plan or design hinges work better with oil

3 : to produce a desired effect or result : succeed a plan that will work

4 : to exert an influence or tendency

5a : to make way slowly and with difficulty : move or progress laboriously worked up to the presidency

b : to sail to windward

6a : to move slightly in relation to another part

b : to get into a specified condition by slow or imperceptible movements the knot worked loose

c : to be in agitation or restless motion

d : ferment sense 1

7 : to permit of being worked : react in a specified way to being worked this wood works easily

transitive verb

1 : to set or keep in motion, operation, or activity : cause to operate or produce a pump worked by hand work farmland

2 : to bring to pass : effect work miracles

3 : to solve (a problem) by reasoning or calculation often used with out

4a : to cause to toil or labor worked their horses nearly to death

b : to make use of : exploit

c : to control or guide the operation of switches are worked from a central tower

5a : to carry on an operation or perform a job through, at, in, or along the peddler worked the corner a sportscaster hired to work the game

b : to greet and talk with in a friendly way in order to ingratiate oneself or achieve a purpose politicians working the crowd worked the room

6 : to pay for or achieve with labor or service worked my way through college worked my way up in the company

7a : to prepare for use by stirring or kneading

b : to bring into a desired form by a gradual process of cutting, hammering, scraping, pressing, or stretching work cold steel

8a : to fashion or create a useful or desired product by expending labor or exertion on : forge, shape work flint into tools

b : to make or decorate with needlework especially : embroider

9a : to get (oneself or an object) into or out of a condition or position by gradual stages

b : contrive, arrange we can work it so that you can take your vacation

10a : excite, provoke worked myself into a rage

b : to practice trickery or cajolery on for some end worked the management for a free ticket

work on

1 : affect worked on my sympathies

2 : to strive to influence or persuade

work upon

: to have effect upon : operate on



Definition of work (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something:

a : activity that a person engages in regularly to earn a livelihood people looking for work

b : a specific task, duty, function, or assignment often being a part or phase of some larger activity

c : sustained physical or mental effort to overcome obstacles and achieve an objective or result

2 : one's place of employment didn't go to work today

3a : something produced or accomplished by effort, exertion, or exercise of skill this book is the work of many hands

b : something produced by the exercise of creative talent or expenditure of creative effort : artistic production an early work by a major writer

4a : something that results from a particular manner or method of working, operating, or devising careful police work clever camera work

b : something that results from the use or fashioning of a particular material porcelain work

5a works plural : structures in engineering (such as docks, bridges, or embankments) or mining (such as shafts or tunnels)

b : a fortified structure (such as a fort, earthen barricade, or trench)

6 works plural in form but singular or plural in construction : a place where industrial labor is carried on : plant, factory

7 works plural : the working or moving parts of a mechanism the works of a clock

8 works plural

a : everything possessed, available, or belonging the whole works, rod, reel, tackle box, went overboard ordered pizza with the works

b : subjection to drastic treatment : all possible abuse usually used with get or give get the worksgave them the works

9a : the transference of energy that is produced by the motion of the point of application of a force and is measured by multiplying the force and the displacement of its point of application in the line of action

b : energy expended by natural phenomena

c : the result of such energy sand dunes are the work of sea and wind

10a : effective operation : effect, result wait for time to do its healing work

b : manner of working : workmanship, execution

11 works plural : performance of moral or religious acts salvation by works

12 : the material or piece of material that is operated upon at any stage in the process of manufacture

at work

1 : engaged in working : busy especially : engaged in one's regular occupation

2 : having effect : operating, functioning

in the works

: in process of preparation, development, or completion

in work

1 : in process of being done

2 of a horse : in training

out of work

: without regular employment : jobless



Definition of work (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : suitable or styled for wear while working work clothes

2 : used for work a work elephant

3 : involving or engaged in work a work gang work hours

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Choose the Right Synonym for work


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

work, employment, occupation, calling, pursuit, métier, business mean a specific sustained activity engaged in especially in earning one's living. work may apply to any purposeful activity whether remunerative or not. her work as a hospital volunteer employment implies work for which one has been engaged and is being paid by an employer. your employment with this firm is hereby terminated occupation implies work in which one engages regularly especially as a result of training. his occupation as a trained auto mechanic calling applies to an occupation viewed as a vocation or profession. the ministry seemed my true calling pursuit suggests a trade, profession, or avocation followed with zeal or steady interest. her family considered medicine the only proper pursuit métier implies a calling or pursuit for which one believes oneself to be especially fitted. acting was my one and only métier business suggests activity in commerce or the management of money and affairs. the business of managing a hotel

Examples of work in a Sentence


I started working when I was sixteen. She works part-time at the restaurant. She has always wanted to work in advertising. She has to work two jobs to support her family. She worked through lunch to get the report done. I'm not working tomorrow—the boss gave me the day off. He works about 60 hours a week. The job requires that you work some nights and weekends. She is used to working long hours. She works the Northeast region of the state selling insurance.


She is trying to find work in publishing. How long have you been looking for work? He started work as a car salesman. I know him through work. She didn't come to work today. He left work a few minutes ago. She's not here right now. She's at work. She went out with her friends from work. Can you describe your work to the class? A large part of the work is responding to e-mails.


What does your work schedule look like this week?
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Not only have changing social norms allowed more women to enter the workplace, but working women have been shifting into better jobs. Evan Horowitz,, "Work is getting better, especially for women," 14 July 2018 And so, another working week will soon draw to a close. Ed Silverman, STAT, "Pharmalittle: J&J ordered to pay $4.7 billion over baby powder cancer links; Novartis and Trump lawyer were tighter than thought," 13 July 2018 The team operates out of TamboWorks, a co-working space in South Miami. Rob Wile, miamiherald, "After mass shootings, schools turn to Miami-made app to keep out the bad guys," 13 July 2018 The owners of the parcels in this sale have not, despite many efforts by the town to work with them to pay. Bill Leukhardt, Courant Community, "Berlin Tax Deed Auction Targets Chronic Delinquent Properties," 13 July 2018 Many families now consist of two working parents whose time (and energy) is stretched very thin. Amy Dickinson, Detroit Free Press, "Privileged parent doesn’t like braggy child," 12 July 2018 With two working parents and two kiddos, time constraints made another DIY conversion out of the question. Megan Barber, Curbed, "This custom camper van can sleep a family of 6," 11 July 2018 This means that having working CO detectors in your home is paramount. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "Emergency Responders Share 9 of the Biggest Death Traps in Your Home," 14 July 2018 In her new role, Weichel will lead digital strategy for Anonymous, working closely with managers and producers to help develop relationships and opportunities for clients with digital and technology platforms. Natalie Jarvey, The Hollywood Reporter, "Anonymous Content Taps Sarah Weichel to Lead Emerging Platforms Division (Exclusive)," 13 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The program appears to be on solid footing with plenty of experienced players on the roster along with solid work on the recruiting trails. Matt Murschel,, "Steady Kansas State is No. 44 in 2018 preseason college football rankings," 14 July 2018 In response, European governments are planning a regional defense fund to develop military capabilities and France launched work on a coalition of nations to tackle security challenges on their borders. Robert Wall, WSJ, "Trump Fuels Anxiety in Europe Over Security," 13 July 2018 Her boyfriend, a construction worker, had done some renovation work on the Capitol building in Washington. New York Times, "‘It’s Like Each Day Is a Year’: A Migrant Mother’s Wait for a Reunion," 13 July 2018 The public works department is completing work on Kansas City’s first parking protected bike lanes along Armour Boulevard from Broadway to The Paseo. Sarah Gish, kansascity, "Will Kansas City ever be bike-friendly? The city is about to roll out a plan," 13 July 2018 Making so many dots obviously is a labor-intensive process that speaks to the deliberation with which these works on paper are made. Mike Giuliano, Howard County Times, "Connecting the dots in Goldberg's variations," 13 July 2018 Grady Jenkins had just offered a DeKalb County teenager a job doing some yard work for him. Zachary Hansen, ajc, "Decatur man offered teen a job. Then the teen fatally shot him, police say," 12 July 2018 Heintz said substantial work on Hessville Park should be completed by November. Rob Earnshaw, Post-Tribune, "Hammond touts redesign, new amenities at Hessville Park," 12 July 2018 Jonathan Haidt’s work on political intuitions helps explain how the president enrages them. The Economist, "The L wordWho is a Democrat?," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Much of the technology that makes the place work lives above the store’s shelves. Matt Day, The Seattle Times, "Amazon Go cashierless convenience store opening to the public," 20 Jan. 2018

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


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for work


Middle English werken, worken, from Old English wyrcan; akin to Old English weorc


Middle English werk, work, from Old English werc, weorc; akin to Old High German werc work, Greek ergon, Avestan varəzem activity

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Learn More about work

Statistics for work

Last Updated

17 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for work

The first known use of work was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for work



English Language Learners Definition of work

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: a job or activity that you do regularly especially in order to earn money

: the place where you do your job

: the things that you do especially as part of your job



English Language Learners Definition of work (Entry 2 of 3)

: suitable to be worn while you are working

: used for work

: of or relating to a person's job



English Language Learners Definition of work (Entry 3 of 3)

: to have a job

: to do things as part of your job

: to do work in, on, or at (an area, event, etc.)


\ˈwərk \

Kids Definition of work

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the use of a person's physical or mental strength or ability in order to get something done or get some desired result Cleaning the playground was a lot of work.

3 : the place where someone works I left my coat at work.

4 : something that needs to be done or dealt with : task, job I have work to do.

5 : deed entry 1 sense 1, achievement The principal will honor the club for its good works.

6 : something produced by effort or hard work an author's latest work a researcher's work

7 works plural : a place where industrial labor is done : plant, factory a locomotive works

8 works plural : the working or moving parts of a mechanical device the works of a watch

9 : the way someone performs labor : workmanship The job was spoiled by careless work.

10 works plural : everything possessed, available, or belonging She ordered a hamburger with the works.


worked or wrought\ˈrȯt \; working

Kids Definition of work (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to do something that involves physical or mental effort especially for money or because of a need instead of for pleasure : labor or cause to labor

2 : to have a job I haven't worked in three years.

3 : to perform or act or to cause to act as planned : operate The plan worked well. How do you work this thing?

4 : to force to do something that involves physical or mental effort The coach really works the team.

5 : to move or cause to move slowly or with effort Work the liquid into a cloth. The screw worked loose.

6 : to cause to happen I can't work miracles.

7 : make entry 1 sense 1, shape The vase is beautifully wrought.

8 : to make an effort especially for a long period She worked hard to make the dinner a success.

9 : excite sense 1, provoke You're going to work yourself into a rage.

10 : to carry on an occupation in, through, or along Two agents worked the city.

work out

1 : to invent or solve by effort He had it all worked out so it wouldn't look fishy.— Zilpha Keatley Snyder, The Egypt Game

2 : to go through an exercise routine

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Comments on work

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


to reject or criticize sharply

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