\ ˈwərk How to pronounce work (audio) \
worked\ ˈwərkt How to pronounce work (audio) \ or wrought\ ˈrȯt How to pronounce work (audio) \; 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
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

Verb 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. Noun 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. Adjective What does your work schedule look like this week?
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb But under Governor Charlie Baker, MassDOT has tried to streamline its approval process, and now work is underway on large projects at Parcel 12 and above the tracks at South Station., "Approaching Boston from the west will never be the same: Long-planned Fenway Center’s about to rise," 18 Apr. 2021 Like the King is scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs on Tuesday and will work at the track next Saturday or Sunday. Jason Frakes, The Courier-Journal, "Concert Tour won't run in Kentucky Derby; Essential Quality, Mandaloun breeze for Cox," 17 Apr. 2021 This is an installment of Pandemic Purchases, a special series of personal essays about the items bought in the past year that brought the most value and joy to our lives and work while living in lockdown. Katherine Dunn, Fortune, "Under lockdown, my habit for buying cookbooks spiraled out of control," 17 Apr. 2021 Women wanted the freedom to work, form families and relationships of their choosing, gain more volition in their life decisions. Will Jeakle, Forbes, "Anti-Mask Bonfires Are Ridiculous, But They’re Part Of A Long History," 17 Apr. 2021 Start at the lowest tone and work your way up if necessary. Lauren Farrell,, "How to train dogs with an e-collar," 17 Apr. 2021 Now, Wilson can run those deep routes and more, while Smith-Njigba can work the middle of the field from the slot. Doug Lesmerises, cleveland, "Ohio State football: Garrett Wilson’s glorious season in the slot, and why his move back outside makes the Buckeyes more dangerous," 17 Apr. 2021 If that doesn’t work, a stem cell or bone marrow transplant is the only option. oregonlive, "A 1 in a 11 million chance to save a life with blood cells donated by a Portland woman," 17 Apr. 2021 And in a later scene, Sarah helps Sam work through his feelings about Isaiah’s story, as Sam suggests that the pain and sacrifice endured by Isaiah and others only means that Sam should stand up and keep fighting. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, "‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ Recap: American Skin," 16 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Relievers don’t get a lot of at-bats, but Suter was so effective with his first two innings of work that Counsell decided to send him out for a third, which meant having to hit – or try to hit. Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Now wearing a Milwaukee uniform, Kolten Wong is looking forward to his return to St. Louis," 7 Apr. 2021 Still, the Covid-19 work has been lucrative for the company. New York Times, "U.S. Bet Big on Covid Vaccine Manufacturer Even as Problems Mounted," 6 Apr. 2021 Sometimes different work is a better solution than rest. Yec, Forbes, "Leading A Team Through Pandemic Burnout," 6 Apr. 2021 As a manager, Barron notes the importance in general of recognizing how stressful intelligence work is for everyone regardless of gender. Lily Hay Newman, Wired, "The Opportunities—and Obstacles—for Women at NSA and Cyber Command," 6 Apr. 2021 Most of Crespo’s work at SDSU is devoted to promoting physical activity and changing sedentary behavior within underserved communities and people of color. Beth Wood, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Move beyond your pandemic slump: Get up and get going," 6 Apr. 2021 For all its vaunted simplicity, a hallmark of much of Hemingway’s work is bloat. Mark Athitakis, Los Angeles Times, "Ken Burns’ new Hemingway documentary doesn’t give you a reason to read Hemingway," 5 Apr. 2021 The work was not just difficult but dangerous for those toiling in the Ever Given’s vast shadow. NBC News, "Inside the Ever Given's Suez Canal rescue: How tides, tugboats helped free the big ship," 2 Apr. 2021 The work wasn’t easy: Each cubic square foot of stone weighed about 120 pounds. Washington Post, "Hiking along Virginia’s Aquia Creek and finding history a stone’s throw from home," 2 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Where the mothership had to very gradually immerse itself in the idea of doing more than alluding to non-work stories, SVU jumped in with both feet. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, "The Nine Lives of ‘Law & Order’," 31 Mar. 2021 GitLab has evolved lots of techniques to keep its disparate workforce engaged with one another, such as creating always-on videoconferencing rooms, and setting up chat channels to discuss non-work topics like sports and families. Carolyn Said, San Francisco Chronicle, "Remote-work pioneer Gitlab has this warning for companies plotting a return to the office," 23 Mar. 2021 Employees lit their post-work cigarettes and raced away, music cranked. Charles Bethea, The New Yorker, "On the Overnight Shift with the Amazon Union Organizers," 22 Mar. 2021 There are also non-work distractions at home for remote workers, such as dogs needing to get walked on their schedule and the question of whether the kids are actually paying attention in the virtual classes or doing their schoolwork. Terry Collins, USA TODAY, "Stuck on Zoom: How having more tech at home during COVID-19 creates longer, more stressful workdays," 22 Mar. 2021 Style with a blazer and statement earring for zoom calls, or with an oversized button-down and sneakers for post-work errands. Samantha Costantino, Forbes, "10 Must-Have Spring Wardrobe Essentials To Replace Sweats," 9 Mar. 2021 The proposals would also dilute pro-work incentives in the tax code. Robert Verbruggen, National Review, "‘Bringing Back Welfare as We Knew It,’ or ‘Pro-Family’?," 5 Mar. 2021 This bill, if signed by Gov. Spencer Cox, will add criminal penalties for law enforcement and prosecutors who share explicit images obtained as evidence for non-work purposes. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Legislative session ends as governor praises many ‘good bills’ that passed and many ‘terrible bills’ that didn’t," 5 Mar. 2021 With more free time on their hands during the pandemic lockdown, people could invest in non-work activities, update their living spaces, and dress more comfortably. Marcia Layton Turner, Forbes, "Gen Z Is Driving Demand For Cottagecore Goods," 28 Feb. 2021

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

Time Traveler for work

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for work

Last Updated

20 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Work.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for work



English Language Learners Definition of work

 (Entry 1 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.)



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

: suitable to be worn while you are working
: used for work
: of or relating to a person's job


\ ˈwərk How to pronounce work (audio) \

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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