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”). Displaced native English swink (“toil, labor”).
- (UK) IPA(key): /ˈleɪ.bə/
Audio (UK) (file)
- (US) IPA(key): /ˈleɪ.bɚ/
Audio (US) (file)
- Rhymes: -eɪbə(ɹ)
labour (countable and uncountable, plural labours) (British spelling, Canadian spelling, Australian spelling, New Zealand spelling)
- Effort expended on a particular task; toil, work.
- 1719 April 25, [Daniel Defoe], The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, […], 3rd edition, London: […] W[illiam] Taylor […], published 1719, →OCLC, page 78:
- […] So I ſet myſelf to enlarge my Cave and Works farther into the Earth; for it was a looſe ſandy Rock, which yielded eaſily to the Labour I beſtowed on it […]
- That which requires hard work for its accomplishment; that which demands effort.
- 1594–1597, Richard Hooker, J[ohn] S[penser], editor, Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie, […], London: […] Will[iam] Stansby [for Matthew Lownes], published 1611, →OCLC, (please specify the page):
- Being a labour of so great difficulty, the exact performance thereof we may rather wish than look for.
- (uncountable) Workers in general; the working class, the workforce; sometimes specifically the labour movement, organised labour.
- 1918, W[illiam] B[abington] Maxwell, chapter XLIV, in The Mirror and the Lamp, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, →OCLC, pages 364–365:
- 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.
- (uncountable) A political party or force aiming or claiming to represent the interests of labour.
- (medicine, obstetrics) The act of a mother giving birth.
- The time period during which a mother gives birth.
- (nautical) The pitching or tossing of a vessel which results in the straining of timbers and rigging.
- (historical) A traditional unit of area in Mexico and Texas, equivalent to 177.1 acres or 71.67 ha.
- 1841, William Kennedy, Texas: The Rise, Progress, and Prospects of the Republic of Texas:
- the establishment of a new settlement are entitled to five sitios of grazing land, and five labors (equal to 23,025 acres)
- (uncommon, zoology) A group of moles.
Like many others ending in -our/-or, this word is spelled labour in the UK and labor in the U.S. As such, labor is the more common spelling of the unit. In Canada, labour is preferred, but labor is not unknown. In Australia, labour is the standard spelling, but the Australian Labour Party, founded 1908, "modernised" its spelling to Australian Labor Party in 1912 at the suggestion of American-born King O'Malley, who was a prominent leader in the ALP.
- (The act of a mother giving birth): labour pain
labour (third-person singular simple present labours, present participle labouring, simple past and past participle laboured) (British spelling, Canadian spelling, Australian spelling, New Zealand spelling)
- (intransitive) To toil, to work.
- 1939 September, D. S. Barrie, “The Railways of South Wales”, in Railway Magazine, page 165:
- Standing on the mountain above Caerphilly, one may reflect upon the gap where once stood Llanbradach Viaduct, and look near at hand upon the restored ruins of Caerphilly Castle; man labours to rebuild the mediaeval whilst he ruthlessly scraps the modern.
- 1961 May, “Beattock Interlude”, in Trains Illustrated, page 287, photo caption:
- "Crab" 2-6-0 No 42802 labours up to Beattock Summit with a northbound freight from Carlisle in August 1960.
- (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.
- 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.
- 1726, George Granville, Love
- the stone that labours up the hill
- 1709, [Alexander Pope], An Essay on Criticism, London: […] W. Lewis […], published 1711, →OCLC:
- The line too labours, and the words move slow.
- 1821 January 8, [Walter Scott], Kenilworth; a Romance. […], volume (please specify |volume=I, II, or III), Edinburgh: […] Archibald Constable and Co.; and John Ballantyne, […]; London: Hurst, Robinson, and Co., →OCLC:
- to cure the disorder under which he laboured
- 1726, George Granville, Love
- To suffer the pangs of childbirth.
- (nautical) To pitch or roll heavily, as a ship in a turbulent sea.
- 1808, William Gilpin, Memoirs of Josias Rogers, Esq:
- the ship laboured so much, and took in so much water in her upper works, that we could neither eat, nor sleep dry
- labor in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913
- labour in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911
- labour at OneLook Dictionary Search
- "labour" in Raymond Williams, Keywords (revised), 1983, Fontana Press, page 176.
Deverbal from labourer. See also labeur.
labour m (plural labours)
- “labour”, in Trésor de la langue française informatisé [Digitized Treasury of the French Language], 2012.
labour m (oblique plural labours, nominative singular labours, nominative plural labour)
- (late Anglo-Norman) Alternative spelling of labur