1 a : work especially of a painful or laborious nature : toil
b : a physical or mental exertion or piece of work : task, effort
c : agony, torment
2 : childbirth, labor
Did You Know?
Etymologists are pretty certain that travail comes from trepalium, the Late Latin name of an instrument of torture. We don't know exactly what a trepalium looked like, but the word's history gives us an idea. Trepalium is derived from the Latin tripalis, which means "having three stakes" (from tri-, meaning "three," and palus, meaning "stake"). From trepalium sprang the Anglo-French verb travailler, which originally meant "to torment" but eventually acquired the milder senses "to trouble" and "to journey." The Anglo-French noun travail was borrowed into English in the 13th century, followed about a century later by travel, another descendant of travailler.
"Japan's electronics industry has been able to hold on to its status as a powerhouse exporter in spite of numerous travails, such as the collapse of the bubble economy in the 1990s." - Tatsuo Ito, Wall Street Journal, February 24, 2015
"But this is not the first time Bono has dabbled in journalism, or exposed himself to the unforgiving gaze of the blogosphere. Other literary travails include a blog for the Financial Times in which he describes meeting the Japanese prime minister…." - Alexandra Topping, The Guardian, January 13, 2009
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Word Family Quiz
What word beginning with "p" is derived from Latin palus ("stake") and can refer to a fence of stakes used for a defense or to a line of steep cliffs along a river or ocean? The answer is …
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