work

1 of 3

verb

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

2 of 3

noun

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 worksgave 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

work

3 of 3

adjective

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 crew
work hours
Phrases
work on
1
: affect
worked on my sympathies
2
: to strive to influence or persuade
work upon
: to have effect upon : operate on
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
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

Example Sentences

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? See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
The members will work on individual careers, and some will start military service in Korea, which is mandatory. Chris Smith, BGR, 2 Dec. 2022 Pro Tip: Again, work with the lights on to keep your rows even. Anna Fixsen, ELLE Decor, 2 Dec. 2022 Wheels work well in most situations but can often slip on hills and small patches of ice. Bradley Ford, Popular Mechanics, 2 Dec. 2022 What’s not clear—or relevant to companies solely interested in profits—is whether the technologies now being rendered more attractive investments by the IRA will actually work. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, 2 Dec. 2022 Or even the most leisure time (Mississippi and West Virginia work the least). Andrew Van Dam, Washington Post, 2 Dec. 2022 Under Armour employees will work alongside university researchers. Lorraine Mirabella, Baltimore Sun, 1 Dec. 2022 Hull and Johnson work together only on Styles’ records, otherwise maintaining their own impressive bona fides. Chris Willman, Variety, 1 Dec. 2022 Human censors must work overtime to fill the gap by removing photos and videos—meaning there’s a greater chance of some content slipping through and inspiring others. Time, 1 Dec. 2022
Noun
Mississippi high school powerlifters Syrianna Jones, Demeria Moore, Jorja Roberson, Cara Roberson and Jasmyn Stamper came together to help an opponent work around a bad rule that has since been changed. Arkansas Online, 21 Nov. 2022 Visual artists have been the first to question the legality and ethics of AI that incorporates existing work. Will Knight, WIRED, 21 Nov. 2022 Christian's work has also been featured in InStyle, Food & Wine, the New York Post, and Tatler Asia. Christian Gollayan, Men's Health, 21 Nov. 2022 Speaking of style and function, this is a must-have carry-on bag for work travel. Medgina Saint-elien, House Beautiful, 21 Nov. 2022 During his weekly radio show, Saban detailed what his work week looks like when the Tide have a game. Ben Flanagan | Bflanagan@al.com, al, 21 Nov. 2022 Most of that work has been in sales and marketing in the supermarket industry. Soudi Jiménezescritor, Los Angeles Times, 21 Nov. 2022 Career breaks are extended and usually unpaid stretches of time off work. Liz Weston, oregonlive, 21 Nov. 2022 Domino’s executives have said that many drivers opted for gig work during the pandemic, given a surge in the delivery business and promises of more flexible schedules. Heather Haddon, WSJ, 21 Nov. 2022
Adjective
Democrats credit a rapidly growing safety net, while Republicans point to the impact of pro-work welfare reforms. Matt Weidinger, National Review, 23 Nov. 2022 This wearable massager will become his new favorite post-work activity for melting away knots and neck pain. Leah Campano, Seventeen, 10 Nov. 2022 The latest guidelines scrutinizing the moral character of celebrities also come amid a wider push to discourage the anti-work ‘lying flat‘ youth culture in China. Sophie Mellor, Fortune, 1 Nov. 2022 Always agreeing to post-work cocktails or dinners can leave you (and your finances) stretched thin. Stephanie Dolgoff, Good Housekeeping, 9 Nov. 2022 All shifts at the building were cancelled, with employees receiving non-work pay. William Thornton | Wthornton@al.com, al, 4 Oct. 2022 Of course, every generation of workers has had its anti-work philosophies and many managers and striving colleagues have always taken issue with them. Kathryn Dill And Angela Yang, WSJ, 25 Aug. 2022 Sadly, lying flat, ghost quitting and anti-work trends show the discouragement and disconnection of young adults from the workplace and economy. Jack Kelly, Forbes, 4 Aug. 2022 The right approach to non-work time can help prevent burnout, improve health and generally make life more livable. Chris Woolston, Smithsonian Magazine, 18 July 2022 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

Verb

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

Noun

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

First Known Use

Verb

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

Noun

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

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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

Dictionary Entries Near work

Cite this Entry

“Work.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/work. Accessed 9 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

work

1 of 3 noun
1
a
: the use of one's strength or ability to get something done or to achieve a result : labor, toil
b
: the work done as one's regular job
also : the place of one's employment
didn't go to work today
c
: something to be done : task
have work to do
2
: the energy used when a force is applied over a given distance
3
a
: something that results from a particular manner or method of working, operating, or devising
careful police work
b
: something that results from the use or shaping of a particular material
porcelain work
4
: a fortified structure (as a fort or trench)
5
plural : a place where industrial labor is done : plant, factory
cement works
6
plural : the working or moving parts of a mechanical device
the works of a watch
7
: something produced by hard work or skill
a writer's first work
8
: manner of working : workmanship
careless work
9
plural
a
: everything available, possessed, or belonging
a hamburger with the works
b
: the harshest treatment possible
gave him the works

work

2 of 3 adjective
1
: used for work
a work elephant
2
: suitable for wear while working
work clothes

work

3 of 3 verb
worked ˈwərkt How to pronounce work (audio) or wrought ˈrȯt How to pronounce work (audio) ; working
1
: to bring about : effect
work a cure
2
a
: to prepare by stirring or shaping
work dough
b
: to bring into a desired form by a manufacturing process
work cold steel
3
: to set or keep in motion or operation
a pump worked by hand
4
: to solve by reasoning or figuring
work an arithmetic problem
5
a
: to cause to labor
worked the crew hard
b
: to make use of : exploit
work a mine
6
: to pay for with labor
work off a debt
7
a
: to get into or out of a state or position by stages
worked the boat loose
b
: contrive sense 3, arrange
work it so that you can leave soon
8
: excite sense 1, provoke
worked myself into a rage
9
a
: to make an effort especially for a long period
b
: to perform a task requiring extended effort or repeated operations
c
: to perform work regularly for wages
works in advertising
10
: to function or operate properly
hinges work better with oil
11
: to produce a desired effect : succeed
my plan worked
12
: to move gradually into a certain position or state
the knot worked loose

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