Definition of toil in English:

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Pronunciation: /tɔɪl/


[no object]
1Work extremely hard or incessantly: we toiled away [with infinitive]: Richard toiled to build his editorial team
More example sentences
  • Club members had toiled long and hard to build these rooms and the photographers were showing no respect.
  • Hundreds eke out a living, toiling hard throughout the night.
  • At a distance, the cranes, the earthmovers, the construction workers toiled hard and dug deep.
work hard, labour, work one's fingers to the bone, work like a Trojan, work like a dog, work day and night, exert oneself, keep at it, keep one's nose to the grindstone, grind away, slave away, grub away, plough away, plod away
informal slog away, peg away, beaver away, plug away, put one's back into something, work one's guts out, work one's socks off, knock oneself out, sweat blood, kill oneself
British informal graft away, fag
Australian/New Zealand informal bullock
British vulgar slang work one's balls/arse/nuts off
North American vulgar slang work one's ass/butt off
archaic drudge, travail, moil
1.1 [with adverbial of direction] Move slowly and with difficulty: she began to toil up the cliff path
More example sentences
  • I gave my pony to a native and began to toil up the hillside with the infantry.
  • The expedition continued to toil north, and continued to leak men, as deserters wilier than Collins slipped away night after night.
  • I strap everything to my pack, and toil my way up the last three miles in my soggy snowboard boots.
struggle, move with difficulty, labour, trudge, tramp, traipse, slog, plod, trek, footslog, sweat, drag oneself, fight (one's way), push
British informal trog, yomp
North American informal schlep


[mass noun]
Exhausting physical labour: a life of toil
More example sentences
  • I have discovered that when it comes to physical toil, some work placement students act like consultants.
  • Nevertheless, the joy of knowing that those bookshelves were the result of your own toil and labour can be beyond measure, even if they are a bit wonky.
  • For the most part, food on the journey would be simple: something that stored well and needed little preparation, and yet was hearty enough to give the energy needed for hard physical toil.
hard work, toiling, labour, slaving, struggle, effort, exertion, application, industry, grind, slog, {blood, sweat, and tears}, drudgery
informal sweat, elbow grease
British informal graft
Australian/New Zealand informal (hard) yakka
archaic travail, moil



Pronunciation: /ˈtɔɪlə/
Example sentences
  • He speaks frequently; the old man speaks from time to time; the woman says almost nothing; but the toilers in the field, row upon row, catch only a few words each before the procession moves on.
  • They preferred to claim that they had resisted the charms of embourgeoisement and still stood shoulder to shoulder with the fellow toilers from whom they or their parents had sprung.
  • Italy has seen the success of the Slow Food movement, and at a recent conference on idling there, it was claimed that idlers are smarter than toilers as they can do the same amount of work in half the time.


Middle English (in the senses 'contend verbally' and 'strife'): from Anglo-Norman French toiler 'strive, dispute', toil 'confusion', from Latin tudiculare 'stir about', from tudicula 'machine for crushing olives', related to tundere 'crush'.

  • toilet from mid 16th century:

    A toilet was originally a cloth used as a wrapper for clothes or a covering for a dressing table, from French toilette ‘cloth, wrapper’. From the first meaning developed a group of senses relating to dressing and washing, including ‘the process of washing, dressing, and attending to your appearance’, now rather dated, which is also expressed in the French form toilette. In the 18th century it was fashionable for a lady to receive visitors during the later stages of her ‘toilet’, which led to uses such as this by the dramatist Sir Richard Steele in 1703: ‘You shall introduce him to Mrs Clerimont's Toilet.’ People started using the word for a dressing room, and, in the USA, one with washing facilities. It was not until the early 20th century that it became a particular item of plumbing, namely a lavatory. See also loo. The French word was a diminutive of toile, used for a type of dress fabric since the late 18th century, and of toils (mid 16th century) for entrapment, a figurative use of an earlier sense, ‘net’. Toil in the sense of hard work in Middle English has had a bad reputation from the start, as it was originally used to mean ‘strife, quarrel, battle’, and from then came to be used for something unpleasantly hard. It comes via French from Latin tudiculare ‘stir about’.

Words that rhyme with toil

boil, Boyle, broil, coil, Dáil, Doyle, embroil, Fianna Fáil, foil, Hoyle, moil, noil, oil, roil, Royle, soil, spoil, voile

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: toil

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