Definition of labor in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈlābər/
(British labour)


1Work, especially hard physical work: the price of repairs includes labor and parts manual labor
More example sentences
  • The majority of migrant workers earn their living in the city by doing manual labour.
  • The men go off and look for casual labour during the day while women and children spend the day looking for shade.
  • These subjects were agricultural workers with varying periods of manual labour in the field.
work, hard work, toil, exertion, industry, drudgery, effort, menial work
informal slog, grind, sweat, scut work
literary travail, moil
1.1Workers, especially manual workers, considered collectively: nonunion casual labor
More example sentences
  • Today there is a growing acceptance of illegal casual labour and a strong demand for it.
  • In this society, his job was one of the few, in which people exactly performed manual labor.
  • It also aims to replace a number of full-time workers with casual and part-time labour.
workers, employees, workmen, workforce, staff, working people, blue-collar workers, laborers, labor force, proletariat
1.2Manual workers considered as a social class or political force: [as modifier]: the labor movement
More example sentences
  • Fourth, the working class and labour movement, repressed, shackled, lacking independence, was no alternative.
  • Steelworkers Canadian director Ken Neumann said the merger creates a new force in the Canadian labour movement, as well as in federal and provincial politics.
  • But turning labour into a political force to be reckoned with in Alberta is a tall order, which McGowan clearly outlined in his paper.
1.3 (Labor) A department of government concerned with a nation’s workforce: Secretary of Labor
More example sentences
  • This was announced at the end of last week by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.
2The process of childbirth, especially the period from the start of uterine contractions to delivery: his wife is in labor
More example sentences
  • They also received 300 mg every three hours while in labor until delivery.
  • Both Lamaze and Bradley encourage partner participation in labor and delivery.
  • The drug prostaglandin is injected into the womb and this causes it to contract strongly as in labour.
childbirth, birth, delivery, nativity;
contractions, labor pains
formal parturition
literary travail
dated confinement
archaic lying-in, accouchement, childbed
3 (Labour) [treated as singular or plural] (In the UK or Canada) the Labour Party.
Example sentences
  • They seem to think that the way to beat Labour is to be more Leftist than Labour!
  • South Swindon has a new Member of Parliament but the seat is still held by Labour.
  • Teresa Page was a hard-working councillor and Labour will be sad to see her go.


[no object]
1Work hard; make great effort: they labored from dawn to dusk in two shifts it now looks as if the reformers had labored in vain
More example sentences
  • At 51, she breathes with real difficulty, wheezing and labouring to draw breath as we talk.
  • And like Mr Sherry, Mr Hillier has laboured for many years and has likewise produced three heavy volumes, the last of which is about to see the light of day in the bookshops.
  • In this atmosphere, the House of Representatives has labored hard.
work, work hard, toil, slave (away), grind away, struggle, strive, exert oneself, work one's fingers to the bone, work like a dog, work like a Trojan
informal slog away, plug away
literary travail, moil
strive, struggle, endeavor, work, try, work hard, try hard, make every effort, do one's best, do one's utmost, do all one can, give one's all, go all out, fight, put oneself out, apply oneself, exert oneself
informal bend/lean/fall over backwards, pull out all the stops, bust a gut, bust one's chops
1.1Work at an unskilled manual occupation: he was eking out an existence by laboring
More example sentences
  • And she actively fought for the most dispossessed of that class, those who labored in the nation's fields.
  • On Saturday, John Paul slept in his old bed, visited his old street and drove by the quarry, no longer used, where he laboured during the Nazi occupation of Poland.
  • Forsaking the books, it was pick and shovel for a year of manual labouring for the young David.
1.2Have difficulty in doing something despite working hard: Coley labored against confident opponents
More example sentences
  • The home side struggled to overcome Edinburgh, but despite labouring for long periods the grit of the Irish forwards eventually saw them through.
  • He was laden with a heavy old radio and was labouring to keep up.
  • There had been a failure specifically to identify favourable material, but that was attributed to the difficulties under which the applicant has been labouring by reason of having been detained.
1.3(Of an engine) work noisily and with difficulty: the wheels churned, the engine laboring
More example sentences
  • He felt the engine laboring, gathering speed slowly, the breakdown lane narrowing rapidly ahead.
  • She turned on her radar detector and slid up to a hundred and five, riding easily, her huge engine hardly laboring as she raced through the night.
  • The engines labored to push the bulky ship off the side of the building and into the air.
1.4 [with adverbial of direction] Move or proceed with trouble or difficulty: they labored up a steep, tortuous track
More example sentences
  • Our taxis, which had labored up the narrow, winding road, descended much more swiftly.
  • She labored up to the stoop, red face partially hidden by brown paper bags.
  • In the terrible heat, the fugitives labored up a tomb-lined slope toward Nuceria.
1.5(Of a ship) roll or pitch heavily.
Example sentences
  • The waves were strong, The Heart of Isis laboured heavily and the men were tested sorely, but by nightfall they had cleared the island without finding safe harbor.
1.6 [with object] archaic Till (the ground): the land belonged to him who labored it



a labor of Hercules


a labor of love

A task done for pleasure, not reward.
Example sentences
  • You're right, it was a labor of love.
  • These and the other films scheduled have all been labours of love.
  • Since I usually get paid by the word (except for labours of love, of course, like this review), I'm all in favour of that.

labor the point

Explain or discuss something at excessive or unnecessary length.
Example sentences
  • The council labours the point that the benchmark return for a company is the ‘risk-free’ return shareholders could earn on their investment.
  • In my own writings, I have always laboured the point that beer can be used in many different ways: as a marinade, in braising, sauces, batters, doughs, and so forth.
  • If I am labouring the point it is for a reason.
overemphasize, belabor, overstress, overdo, strain, overplay, make too much of, exaggerate, dwell on, harp on

Phrasal verbs

labor under

1Carry (a heavy load or object) with difficulty.
2Be deceived or misled by (a mistaken belief): you’ve been laboring under a misapprehension
More example sentences
  • I'm always open to listening to new artists, labouring under the belief that all artists were at some point new and that they had to be given their fair shake.
  • I think they are laboring under the belief that the state has put up everything they've got to show, that Amber's the icing on the cake.
  • I was marginally shocked when they sat down beside me; I was still labouring under the belief that guys were way too cool to sit cross - legged, especially on the grass.
suffer from, be a victim of, be deceived by, be misled by


Middle English labo(u)r, from Old French labour (noun), labourer (verb), both from Latin labor 'toil, trouble'.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: la·bor

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