Open main menu

Wiktionary β

See also: Labour



Wikipedia has articles on:

Alternative formsEdit


From Middle English labouren, from Old French laborer, from Latin laborare ((intransitive) to labor, strive, exert oneself, suffer, be in distress, (transitive) to work out, elaborate), from labor (labor, toil, work, exertion); perhaps remotely akin to robur (strength).



labour (countable and uncountable, plural labours) (British spelling, Canadian, Australian spelling, New Zealand spelling)

  1. Effort expended on a particular task; toil, work.
    • 1719, Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
      [] so I set myself to enlarge my cave, and work farther into the earth; for it was a loose sandy rock, which yielded easily to the labour I bestowed on it []
  2. That which requires hard work for its accomplishment; that which demands effort.
    • Richard Hooker (1554-1600)
      Being a labour of so great a difficulty, the exact performance thereof we may rather wish than look for.
  3. (uncountable) Workers in general; the working class, the workforce; sometimes specifically the labour movement, organised labour.
    • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, chapter 22, in The Mirror and the Lamp:
      In the autumn there was a row at some cement works about the unskilled labour men. A union had just been started for them and all but a few joined. One of these blacklegs was laid for by a picket and knocked out of time.
  4. (uncountable) A political party or force aiming or claiming to represent the interests of labour.
  5. The act of a mother giving birth.
  6. The time period during which a mother gives birth.
  7. (nautical) The pitching or tossing of a vessel which results in the straining of timbers and rigging.
  8. An old measure of land area in Mexico and Texas, approximately 177 acres.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Bartlett to this entry?)

Usage notesEdit

Like many other words ending in -our/-or, this word is spelled labour in the UK and labor in the U.S.; in Canada, labour is preferred, but labor is not unknown. In Australia, where labour is the usual spelling, labor is nonetheless used in the name of the Australian Labor Party, reflecting the fact that the -or endings had some currency in Australia in the past.

  • Adjectives often used with "labour": physical, mental, technical, organised.


Derived termsEdit



labour (third-person singular simple present labours, present participle labouring, simple past and past participle laboured) (British spelling, Canadian, Australian spelling, New Zealand spelling)

  1. (intransitive) To toil, to work.
  2. (transitive) To belabour, to emphasise or expand upon (a point in a debate, etc).
    I think we've all got the idea. There's no need to labour the point.
  3. To be oppressed with difficulties or disease; to do one's work under conditions which make it especially hard or wearisome; to move slowly, as against opposition, or under a burden.
    • Granville
      the stone that labours up the hill
    • Alexander Pope
      The line too labours, and the words move slow.
    • Sir Walter Scott
      to cure the disorder under which he laboured
  4. To suffer the pangs of childbirth.
  5. (nautical) To pitch or roll heavily, as a ship in a turbulent sea.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Totten to this entry?)

Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit


Further readingEdit




  1. work, job



labour m (plural labours)

  1. cultivation

Related termsEdit

Further readingEdit

Old FrenchEdit


labour m (oblique plural labours, nominative singular labours, nominative plural labour)

  1. (late Anglo-Norman) Alternative spelling of labur