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 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

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

Examples of work in a Sentence

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?
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
The employee said safety precautions did not appear to be working. Jeff McDonald, San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 May 2024 Lanham, who previously worked on the scripts for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Just Mercy, is repped by UTA, Kaplan Perrone and Ziffren Brittenham. Ryan Gajewski, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for work 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'work.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 24 May. 2024.

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
Etymology

Noun

Old English werc, weorc "work, activity directed toward accomplishing something"

Verb

Old English wyrcan "to create, cause to happen, shape"

More from Merriam-Webster on work

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!