Share this entry

travail Syllabification: tra·vail
Pronunciation: /trəˈvāl/ /ˈtravˌāl/

Definition of travail in English:


(also travails)
1Painful or laborious effort: advice for those who wish to save great sorrow and travail
More example sentences
  • And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.
  • Springsteen often follows a songwriting strategy that dates back to songs such as ‘Badlands’, with verses full of travail, and choruses that ring with optimism.
  • Today I'm just enormously grateful that such things exist and can be called upon in times of travail.
ordeal, trial, tribulation, trial and tribulation, trouble, hardship, privation, stress;
drudgery, toil, slog, effort, exertion, labor, work, endeavor, sweat, struggle
1.1Labor pains: a woman in travail
More example sentences
  • Anesthetics and antiseptics have manacled the demon pain, and the curse of travail has been lifted from the soul of women.
  • Our hands wax feeble: anguish hath taken hold of us, and pain, as of a woman in travail.
  • A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow.


[no object] Back to top  
1Engage in painful or laborious effort.
Example sentences
  • Paul knew he had to labour like a woman weary after hours of labour pains to effect new life in people: ‘I travail again in birth.’
1.1(Of a woman) be in labor.
Example sentences
  • And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour.


Middle English: via Old French from medieval Latin trepalium 'instrument of torture', from Latin tres 'three' + palus 'stake'.

Words that rhyme with travail

dovetail • shirt tail

Definition of travail in:

Share this entry


What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Word of the day confidant
Pronunciation: ˈkänfəˌdant
a person with whom one shares a secret...