\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

But the medications — and treatment in general — don’t work for everyone. German Lopez, Vox, "A big, new review of the evidence finds that prescription heroin works," 6 Dec. 2018 In previous trials of male contraceptions, Dobs explains, the testosterone replacement idea just hasn't worked. Alexis Jones, Marie Claire, "This New Topical Gel Birth Control For Men Could Change Everything," 30 Nov. 2018 If the Coke remedy doesn’t work, emergency medical treatment is necessary. Joe Graedonteresa Graedon, The Seattle Times, "Food go down the wrong tube? Try sipping cola," 28 Nov. 2018 But at the phones’ launch, the feature didn’t really work: major US carriers had issues supporting dual-SIM users, and none of them supported the eSIM feature that actually allowed the carrier to be on the additional SIM card. Jacob Kastrenakes, The Verge, "AT&T now supports eSIM on Apple’s latest iPhones," 6 Dec. 2018 After all, if a product isn't getting rave reviews, maybe the solution is to re-work the formula instead of simply duping fans. Deanna Pai, Glamour, "The Shady World of Online Beauty Reviews," 23 Nov. 2018 However, a positive response from management might improve working conditions enough to encourage people to stay. Marie G. Mcintyre, The Seattle Times, "Struggling in the chaotic, stressful health-care workplace," 21 Nov. 2018 Discord has been used by the kind of alt-right internet groups most platforms are working to banish. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: Black Friday is the busiest time of year for professional line sitters," 21 Nov. 2018 However, Barrett says the instruments can still work if InSight happens to land on a slope of some kind. Loren Grush, The Verge, "NASA’s InSight lander has just six and a half minutes to land on Mars in one piece," 21 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Right now works by Fairey (a giant mural of Srebnick’s real estate tycoon father, Tony Goldman) and other big names, like the London Police, sit alongside the work of such newcomers as Tatiana Suarez and Pro176. Victoria Stevens, Town & Country, "Meet the Graffitti Queen of Miami," 7 Dec. 2018 An auction highlight was Gates’s work, which sold for $807,000—a record. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "Bono, Naomi Campbell, and More Team Up at Miami Art Basel to Fight AIDS," 6 Dec. 2018 While Microsoft couldn't make Edge work, maybe someone else could repurpose its engine. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "Google Chrome Is Poised to Swallow the Whole Internet," 4 Dec. 2018 If women took just one year off work, their earnings were 39 percent lower than women who worked all 15 years. Kaitlin Menza, Marie Claire, "The Gender Wage Gap Is Way Worse Than We Thought," 3 Dec. 2018 Grimshaw Architects, which has a large portfolio of airport design work—including terminals in Istanbul and Melbourne, Australia—has been selected to design the edifice, but details are still scant. Barbara Peterson, Condé Nast Traveler, "New York's Airports Are Getting Billion-Dollar Makeovers—But What Will They Actually Change?," 21 Nov. 2018 And with this work, Stephaine is fulfilling her own calling. Marty Munson, Woman's Day, "One Woman Is Changing Lives By Bringing Health and Fitness to Church," 15 Nov. 2018 Next: The team is working to bring this dashboard to more locations, according to former project leader Idriss Ait-Bouziad’s presentation of the work at an MSF conference last year. Mallory Locklear, Discover Magazine, "With Big Data and Predictive Analytics, Scientists Are Getting Smarter About Outbreaks," 8 Nov. 2018 Since the announcement, there have been disagreements about maintaining a work/life balance, the stress of the world's eyes on them, and, of course, there's Justin's ex. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "Every Time Justin Bieber Has Broken Down Crying in Public Since Proposing to Hailey Baldwin," 2 Nov. 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

12 Dec 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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More from Merriam-Webster on work

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with work

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for work

Spanish Central: Translation of work

Nglish: Translation of work for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of work for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about work

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