travail

noun
tra·​vail | \ trə-ˈvāl How to pronounce travail (audio) , ˈtra-ˌvāl \

Definition of travail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : work especially of a painful or laborious nature : toil
b : a physical or mental exertion or piece of work : task, effort
c : agony, torment

travail

verb
tra·​vail | \ trə-ˈvāl How to pronounce travail (audio) , ˈtra-ˌvāl; in prayer-​book communion service usually ˈtra-ˌvāl \
travailed; travailing; travails

Definition of travail (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to labor hard : toil

Choose the Right Synonym for travail

Noun

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

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, along with another descendant of travailler, travel.

Examples of travail in a Sentence

Noun They finally succeeded after many months of travail. no greater travail than that of parents who have suffered the death of a child Verb Labor Day is the day on which we recognize those men and women who daily travail with little appreciation or compensation.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Carolyn was able to capture the honor and travail of spending 24/7 with young children so well. Carolyn Hax, Washington Post, 17 May 2022 Cognates are words that are related etymologically, as travail and travel are … at least historically. James Harbeck, The Week, 23 Feb. 2022 But over time, travel and travail split into two different words. James Harbeck, The Week, 23 Feb. 2022 Steinbeck follows their trek through the travail and injustice that accompanied every step of their journey. Steve West, sun-sentinel.com, 3 June 2021 Who will miss the slaughterhouses, with their groan of travail that was never easy to bear in any age? Matthew Scully, National Review, 17 Jan. 2021 Forty is a biblical number, used as shorthand for a long period of isolation and travail. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, 12 Nov. 2020 Douglas and Paula Rigby inevitably find no easy answers to their financial travails and everyday ennui. oregonlive, 20 Mar. 2020 Luxe Antarctica: Modern-day Antarctic polar explorers don’t have to endure the harrowing travails of British pioneer Ernest Shackleton. Michael George, National Geographic, 15 Oct. 2019 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'travail.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of travail

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for travail

Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from travailler to torment, labor, journey, from Vulgar Latin *trepaliare to torture, from Late Latin trepalium instrument of torture, from Latin tripalis having three stakes, from tri- + palus stake — more at pole

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The first known use of travail was in the 13th century

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Cite this Entry

“Travail.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/travail. Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for travail

travail

noun
tra·​vail | \ trə-ˈvā(ə)l How to pronounce travail (audio) , ˈtrav-ˌāl How to pronounce travail (audio) \

Medical Definition of travail

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