1

work

verb \ ˈwərk \
Updated on: 17 Nov 2017

Definition of work

worked play \ˈwərkt\ or wrought play \ˈrȯt\; working
intransitive verb
1 a :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
5 a :to make way slowly and with difficulty :move or progress laboriously
  • worked up to the presidency
b :to sail to windward
6 a :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 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
4 a :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
5 a :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
7 a :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
8 a :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
9 a :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
10 a :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

Examples of work in a Sentence

  1. I started working when I was sixteen.

  2. She works part-time at the restaurant.

  3. She has always wanted to work in advertising.

  4. She has to work two jobs to support her family.

  5. She worked through lunch to get the report done.

  6. I'm not working tomorrow—the boss gave me the day off.

  7. He works about 60 hours a week.

  8. The job requires that you work some nights and weekends.

  9. She is used to working long hours.

  10. She works the Northeast region of the state selling insurance.

Recent Examples of work from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of work

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


2

work

noun

Definition of work

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
3 a :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
4 a :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
5 a 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 works
  • gave them the works
9 a :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
10 a :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

Examples of work in a Sentence

  1. She is trying to find work in publishing.

  2. How long have you been looking for work?

  3. He started work as a car salesman.

  4. I know him through work.

  5. She didn't come to work today.

  6. He left work a few minutes ago.

  7. She's not here right now. She's at work.

  8. She went out with her friends from work.

  9. Can you describe your work to the class?

  10. A large part of the work is responding to e-mails.

Recent Examples of work from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of work

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

3

work

adjective

Definition of work

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

Examples of work in a Sentence

  1. What does your work schedule look like this week?

First Known Use of work

14th century


WORK Defined for English Language Learners

work

noun

Definition of work for English Language Learners

  • : 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


work

adjective

Definition of work for English Language Learners

  • : suitable to be worn while you are working

  • : used for work

  • : of or relating to a person's job


work

verb

Definition of work for English Language Learners

  • : to have a job

  • : to do things as part of your job

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


WORK Defined for Kids

1

work

noun \ ˈwərk \

Definition of work for Students

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 :1deed 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.

2

work

verb

Definition of work for Students

worked or wrought \ˈrȯt\; working
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 :1make 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 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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