Definition of work in English:

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Pronunciation: /wərk/


1Activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result: he was tired after a day’s work in the fields
More example sentences
  • Be it as a player or a coach or otherwise success only comes as a result of hard work and effort.
  • Brilliant breakthroughs can emerge as a result of hard work and disciplined effort.
  • The students must come first: they are the ones who actively do the work and achieve the results.
labor, toil, slog, drudgery, exertion, effort, industry, service
informal grind, sweat, elbow grease
literary travail
1.1 (works) [in combination] A place or premises for industrial activity, typically manufacturing: he found a job in the ironworks
More example sentences
  • Amicus has members in car plants, factories, chemical works, and across industry.
  • It is time now for more hard work to be done so that this vital manufacturing works can be saved, ensuring that York's past can again become its future.
  • There had been some concern expressed about the safety of the site, which had previously been a coal mine, an oil refinery and a chemical works.
2Mental or physical activity as a means of earning income; employment: I’m still looking for work
More example sentences
  • Tade could turn his hand to any type of work and earned his living from his own expertise.
  • It's for six months which is really good for an actress to get so much work and a steady income.
  • Clarks said it would provide support to employees seeking alternative work.
employment, a job, a position, a situation, a post;
an occupation, a profession, a career, a vocation, a calling;
wage labor;
2.1The place where one works: I was returning home from work on a packed subway
More example sentences
  • Three hours later, smoke was seen coming from her door by a person returning from work.
  • Simply mow the grass once a week to provide lush new growth that you can plunge your bare feet into when you return from work.
  • Mrs Jenkins knew nothing about the scam until her bank called one evening when she returned from work.
2.2The period of time spent during the day engaged in such activity: he was going to the theater after work
More example sentences
  • Flags flew at half-mast and non-essential staff were told not to report for work.
  • He was referring to a woman who worked as a clerk at a police chowky and had not reported for work for days.
  • On the third day, he decided to report for work at the KFC, acting as if nothing had happened.
3A task or tasks to be undertaken; something a person or thing has to do: they made sure the work was progressing smoothly
More example sentences
  • He has done a small number of private commissions but has undertaken no major painting work.
  • It will be strictly not for profit and much of the renovation work will be undertaken by volunteers.
  • Also, is it reasonable to stipulate that no work be undertaken over the weekend?
3.1The materials for this: she frequently took work home with her
More example sentences
  • Type A people are highly competitive. They typically work long hours and regularly take work home.
  • He is often at the office until 8pm and always brings work home.
  • Instead of taking work with you, spend some time ensuring urgent matters are dealt with before you take your break.
3.2 informal Cosmetic plastic surgery: between you and me, I think he’s had some work done
More example sentences
  • I think her breasts have definitely had work done.
  • If her face has had a lot of work, then it's probably more likely that all sorts of other things have, too.
  • I think he might be my fave celeb even if he has had a bit of 'work'.
3.3 (works) Theology Good or moral deeds: the Clapham sect was concerned with works rather than with faith
More example sentences
  • For no matter how good our deeds or works may be, they cannot satisfy God 100%.
  • Indeed, evangelical Christians should be foremost in good deeds and leaders in works of charity.
  • You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
4Something done or made: her work hangs in all the main American collections
More example sentences
  • Since then her career has developed in opera, concert work, recording and broadcasting.
  • The only living artist to have his work hung in the Natyet resonates with images of his Dublin Bay home.
  • Still, she is hanging my work and will be sainted for it, in a weak moment I might have given her one.
handiwork, doing, act, deed
4.1The result of the action of a specified person or thing: the bombing had been the work of a German-based cell
4.2A literary or musical composition or other piece of fine art: a work of fiction
More example sentences
  • Now he is penning plays, musicals and literary works, and his new audience requires a different kind of chap altogether.
  • Her Magnum Opus Project is commissioning nine new orchestral works and six new compositions.
  • The Erotokritos, one of the epic works of Greek literature is told and re-told in much of Cretan music.
4.3 (works) All literary or musical pieces by a particular author, composer, or artist, regarded collectively: the works of Schubert fill several feet of shelf space
More example sentences
  • Leonardo was extremely fastidious, but Nicholl reminds us that his exquisite works were the product of titanic labours.
  • The other principle the artist followed was the artistic value of the works.
  • The Golden Age produced the works of Rembrandt, Vermeer and other Dutch masters.
writings, oeuvre, canon, output
4.4A piece of embroidery, sewing, or knitting, typically made using a specified stitch or method.
Example sentences
  • The chikan work of Lucknow is perhaps one of the most popular embroidery works in India.
  • The back flowed out smoothly around Leira and the veil, when she had it on, fell gracefully from a small silver tiara, a delicate work of spring leaves and dainty frosted lilies.
  • Walker contributed a sewn work entitled Sampler that featured the embroidered text, ‘Wife is a four-letter word’.
4.5 (usually works) Military A defensive structure.
Example sentences
  • This is manifested in the elaborate defensive works of banks and ditches erected to fortify dominating hilltops.
  • Many of these later military works can be seen, including secret wartime tunnel systems.
  • On the left bank of the river, the works lie north of the present city of Samarra, which is a walled city.
4.6 (works) An architectural or engineering structure such as a bridge or dam.
4.7The record of the successive calculations made in solving a mathematical problem: show your work on a separate sheet of paper
More example sentences
  • She can do the work and solve the problems, but she can't do it under exam conditions.
5 (works) The operative part of a clock or other machine: she could almost hear the tick of its works
More example sentences
  • His body had already begun to break down and he was virtually a being of energy as he ricocheted into the works of the clock.
  • The fumes of the kerosene loosen the dirt, which falls into the cotton wool, leaving the works of the clock clean.
  • It is not necessary to remove the L bracket from the works of the clock.
6 Physics The exertion of force overcoming resistance or producing molecular change.
Example sentences
  • The walker's muscles must do this amount of work, to replace the lost kinetic energy, in every step.
  • For example, if you push on a box (apply a force) and it moves three feet, work has been performed BY you to the box, while work has been performed ON the box.
  • So lifting a flea a small distance is more work than holding a heavy weight stationary.
7 (the works) informal Everything needed, desired, or expected: the heavens put on a show: sheet lightning, hailstones—the works
More example sentences
  • And it was attended by President and Ladybird Johnson, so I figured, you know, such an important occasion, I better give them the works, right?
  • We have the works: pedicure, nails painted, eyelashes tinted, highlights.
  • Did he give you the works? The flowers, the kisses, knew all the right things to say?
everything, the full treatment
informal the lot, the whole shebang, the full nine yards, the whole kit and kaboodle, the whole ball of wax

verb (pastand past participle worked or archaicwrought /rôt/)

[no object]
1Be engaged in physical or mental activity in order to achieve a purpose or result, especially in one’s job; do work: an engineer who had been working on a design for a more efficient wing new contracts forcing employees to work longer hours
More example sentences
  • Some of this is the result of efforts by the town council and some is the result of the council working with others to achieve them.
  • We have been working on it but maybe we are working with players who are slow to pick up on it.
  • He worked and enjoyed different things than going out and working on the tennis.
1.1Be employed, typically in a specified occupation or field: Taylor has worked in education for 17 years
More example sentences
  • Frank worked in the Paper Mills and Waterford Crystal for a number of years and for the last few years he worked as a taxi driver.
  • I've never ever worked in an office before, I've only ever worked as a waitress.
  • He worked as a ranger employed by the council at the Flitch Way Country Park, which runs from Bishop's Stortford to Braintree.
be employed, have a job, earn one's living, do business
1.2 (work in) (Of an artist) produce articles or pictures using (a particular material or medium): he works in clay over a very strong frame
More example sentences
  • The limner was never solely a miniaturist, but worked in other formats and media too.
  • Dr. Bob works in cypress, training trees over many years to grow in specific shapes.
  • As well as using clear, sandblasted glass, Kelly works in cheery yellow and orange.
1.3 [with object] Produce (an article or design) using a specified material or sewing stitch: the castle itself is worked in tent stitch
More example sentences
  • I'm sure you could work some neat designs into the building front using the colour differences.
  • I'm working these on 72 stitches, using some Regia Shadow that was in my stash.
  • Beautifully worked stitches feature in many examples of white work in children's dresses and gowns.
1.4 [with object] Set to or keep at work: Jane is working you too hard
More example sentences
  • He works Miles hard and does all the thinking for Angus, who, right from the beginning, is seen to be a few straws short of a bale.
  • He was demanding as a director, but I wouldn't agree that he worked you too hard.
  • The rich, throat-catching smell of hard worked packhorses hit me even as I drew in a sharp gasp of amazement.
1.5 [with object] Cultivate (land) or extract materials from (a mine or quarry): contracts and leases to work the mines
More example sentences
  • Gilberth explains how his practices have changed even in the few years he's worked this land.
  • Mr Spargo took shares in a company formed for working a mine which he sold to the company.
  • This may well have been the case but the company only worked the mine for a short time during which several thousand tons of ore were treated.
1.6 [with object] Solve (a puzzle or mathematical problem): she spent her days working crosswords
More example sentences
  • It was about this argument I had with a woman on a plane and about working a crossword puzzle.
  • So I just dug around and found a sheet or two where we'd taken a listless stab at working a problem.
  • The instructor also worked problems and reviewed problems from past quizzes in the class.
1.7 [with object] Practice one’s occupation or operate in or at (a particular place): I worked a few clubs and so forth
More example sentences
  • Men were busy working on architecture or training in the army while young ladies worked the market place.
  • Nobody that has ever worked the killing room will ever tell you that you will catch every one, no matter how hard you try.
  • One of six children, his father worked a small farm and laboured for the county council to make ends meet.
1.8Make efforts to achieve something; campaign: we spend a great deal of our time working for the lacto-vegetarian cause
More example sentences
  • Both local authorities say they are committed to working for better transport links and these efforts must continue.
  • By adding borrowed money to your own funds you can increase the total amount of money working for you.
  • But just because they are in Canada does not mean they have stopped working for the Burmese people.
2(Of a machine or system) operate or function, especially properly or effectively: his cell phone doesn’t work unless he goes to a high point
More example sentences
  • So many of our institutions and systems are not working properly, including the judiciary.
  • But even at the highest levels there is a tacit acknowledgment that the system is not working properly.
  • Walhi's lawyers, however, said the early warning system had not worked properly.
2.1(Of a machine or a part of it) run; go through regular motions: it’s designed to go into a special “rest” state when it’s not working
2.2(Especially of a person’s features) move violently or convulsively: hair wild, mouth working furiously
More example sentences
  • Her mouth worked furiously trying to come up some excuse for her outburst.
  • Rena was gaping like a fish, her mouth working furiously but she didn't emit a single word.
  • Her other hand is at the back of my head now, her jaw working as if my mouth is a pulpy piece of fruit she's eating.
twitch, quiver, convulse
2.3 [with object] Cause (a device or machine) to operate: teaching customers how to work a VCR
More example sentences
  • He looked back at the counter where a blonde haired girl was busy working the machines.
  • Women snigger at men for being unable to work a washing machine, men snigger at women for being bad drivers.
  • Before the advent of the computer I worked a manual Comptometer machine, the keys of which had to be pounded.
operate, use, handle, control, manipulate, run
2.4(Of a plan or method) have the desired result or effect: the desperate ploy had worked
More example sentences
  • This method works only with insurance plans that use coinsurance, where patients pay a portion of their bills until they reach a maximum.
  • This method works if the water reservoir in the top 5 feet of soil is at or near field capacity at planting time.
  • In both cases the game plan worked, and McClaren admitted that the result was a huge relief.
succeed, work out, turn out well, go as planned, get results, be effective
informal come off, pay off, do/turn the trick
2.5 [with object] Bring about; produce as a result: with a dash of blusher here and there, you can work miracles
More example sentences
  • The miracle has been wrought by recognising health as a human right - and therefore the responsibility of the state - and acting accordingly.
  • For Hugh, a 22-year-old IT worker, has wrought a minor miracle.
  • Miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed and signs and wonders will follow the believers.
bring about, accomplish, achieve, produce, perform, create, engender, contrive, effect
2.6 [with object] informal Arrange or contrive: the chairman was prepared to work it for Phillip if he was interested
More example sentences
  • His editor, Clive Barnaby, wanted someone on the job who was prepared to work the local angles.
  • Sadly it wouldn't be human if someone hadn't managed to work an angle on how to turn what happened to the city yesterday to their advantage.
  • That inactivity puts a greater premium on working a deal with unrestricted free agent James Dexter, its projected starter at left guard.
arrange it/things, manipulate it/things, contrive it;
pull strings, fix it, swing it, wangle it
2.7 (work on/upon) Exert influence or use one’s persuasive power on (someone or their feelings): she worked upon the sympathy of her associates
More example sentences
  • In that moment, I became absurdly sure that a supernatural force was working upon me, pushing and pulling me toward an unknown fate, a road at whose end stood the slight, cold figure currently bargaining with my father.
  • Some occult influence was at work upon me throughout those dark hours, I am positively certain.
  • At this late stage, the elites found themselves forced to work upon the increasingly dysfunctional myths.
persuade, manipulate, influence;
informal twist someone's arm, lean on
2.8 [with object] Use one’s persuasive power to stir the emotions of (a person or group of people): the born politician’s art of working a crowd
More example sentences
  • He is brilliant when he works the crowd with his radio mike.
  • Another person who could be seen working the crowd was director Jayaraj.
  • Christine Caughey and Richard Simpson turned up to have a peek at our meeting and our working the crowd.
3 [with object or complement] Bring (a material or mixture) to a desired shape or consistency by hammering, kneading, or some other method: work the mixture into a paste with your hands
More example sentences
  • Using your fingers, draw in the flour and work the mixture into a dough, adding more water if necessary.
  • Sift the flour with the baking powder into the bowl and work the mixture with your hand until it forms a firm dough.
  • Then the mixture is worked, gently at first, and then more vigorously.
knead, squeeze, form;
mix, stir, blend
3.1Bring into a specified state, especially an emotional state: Harold had worked himself into a minor rage
More example sentences
  • Finally I had worked myself into a state of hysterics so much so that I could not breathe.
  • Everybody's working themselves into a lather over one mad cow, and it's bloody ridiculous.
  • I agree with Mr. Jenkins, I think you can work yourself into a state of real paranoia here if you're not careful.
stir (up), excite, drive, move, rouse, fire, galvanize;
whip up, agitate
4 [with adverbial or complement] Move or cause to move gradually or with difficulty into another position, typically by means of constant movement or pressure: [with object]: comb from tip to root, working out the knots at the end [no object]: its bases were already working loose
More example sentences
  • He sewed me up again and told me if they worked loose again, that I shouldn't be concerned, because I was healing very quickly.
  • Several of my toes commenced to blacken and fester near the tips and the nails worked loose.
  • Our advice is to secure it very firmly, be conservative with your speed and make frequent stops to ensure it isn't working loose.
maneuver, manipulate, guide, edge
maneuver, make, thread, wind, weave, wend
4.1(Of joints, such as those in a wooden ship) loosen and flex under repeated stress.
4.2 [with adverbial] Sailing Make progress to windward, with repeated tacking: trying to work to windward in light airs
More example sentences
  • A weatherly ship is one that works well to windward, making but little leeway.



at work

Engaged in work.
1.1In action: researchers were convinced that one infectious agent was at work
More example sentences
  • I call Mark as both of us love to watch the industrious little blighters at work.
  • Nature is busy at work even in a place of towering bricks and mortar with concrete sprawl.
  • There will be a chance for the public to step inside an industrial museum and see history at work.

give someone the works

informal Treat someone harshly.
Example sentences
  • He got on the boat and opened it, and looked in the back of it, and the works were gone, and the note said, come back and we'll give you the works.
  • DiCaprio's Rimbaud gives him the works--abusing him to disabuse him, so to speak, to try to free him of his sentiment.
2.1Kill someone.

have one's work cut out

Be faced with a hard or lengthy task.
Example sentences
  • Study hard Anna, you have your work cut out for you!
  • Julia is a hard act to follow and I will have my work cut out.
  • Richards will have her work cut out to convince clients the cuts were needed and stop a further damaging exodus.

in the works

Being planned, worked on, or produced.
Example sentences
  • If such a plan is truly in the works, it will have dire consequences for the people of Darfur.
  • Plans are in the works to build an addition that will double Shaw's occupancy.
  • Plans are in the works to add a variety of new programming and specialty shows.

out of work

Example sentences
  • Here's this guy on the flee and charged with all these crimes, and you are out of work.
  • More than a million farmers in Mexico are out of work because of our subsidies on corn.
  • He's been out of work while his wife was very ill and the family could use some help.
redundant, laid off, on welfare, on the dole
euphemistic between jobs

set to work (or set someone to work)

Begin or cause to begin work.
Example sentences
  • So the necessary equipment was bought and M Gaget was set to work.
  • An Irish person could register a company in any other country, bring in workers from that country, set them to work and pay them wages according to the regulations in the other country.
  • Now that they are on holiday, give them a torch and set them to work.

the work of ——

A task occupying a specified amount of time: it was the work of a moment to discover the tiny stab wound
More example sentences
  • It was the work of but moments to drag the whistling warrior back across the clearing.
  • It is the work of a moment to tie on a bead so that the line pressure traps the bead against the level wind mechanism.
  • There are moments in history when the work of years can be accomplished in weeks.

work one's ass (butt, etc.) off

vulgar slang Work extremely hard.

work one's fingers to the bone

see bone.

work one's passage

Pay for one’s journey on a ship with work instead of money.
Example sentences
  • I once managed to work my passage through both the Suez and Panama Canals on a container ship.
  • Others tramped their way to towns and seaports where they worked their passage to some foreign port and were never heard of again.

work one's way through college (or school, etc.)

Obtain the money for educational fees or one’s maintenance as a student by working.
Example sentences
  • They are used to students working their way through college and graduates starting work with big loans to repay.
  • Most students in the US work their way through college.
  • A larger group consists of overseas students working their way through college.

work one's will on/upon

Accomplish one’s purpose on: she set a coiffeur to work his will on her hair
More example sentences
  • In the comments he compares the pleasure he gets from working his will on a recalcitrant domestic appliance to the triumph a caveman felt when slaying a mastodon.
  • Here people have worked their will upon rivers with remarkable engineering skills, but their work of concrete, valves, and buried pipes has neglected deeper social and aesthetic needs.
  • When we make a clearing, we should do so not in order to enjoy the pleasure of weedwhacking, or otherwise working our will on the landscape, but in order to plant something.

work the streets

(Of a prostitute) seek clients in the street, rather than work in a brothel: she now works the streets in Sheffield’s red light district to pay for her addiction
More example sentences
  • There are now about 400 prostitutes working the streets.
  • I don't believe there are any women working the streets who want to be there.
  • She spent half of her life working the streets of the major cities of Saskatchewan.

work wonders

see wonder.

Phrasal verbs


work something in

Include or incorporate something, typically in something spoken or written.
Example sentences
  • I hadn't actually considered bringing back Sam's evil bodyguard history beyond the brief mention that he now hates bodyguarding, but I may find a way to work it in.
  • Not sure if I will be able to work it in - I am having real trouble keeping in my head what exactly I am supposed to be writing about.
  • And, how would I have worked it in to the conversation without a really weird point, ‘hi, I am Adelaide, I am your brother's boss's daughter’?

work something off

1Discharge a debt by working.
Example sentences
  • The barrister continued: ‘It was the dealer's suggestion he work the debt off by helping in the care of the cannabis plants.’
  • In return you will serve the hotel loyally and honestly until your debts are worked off by your hard labour.
  • The events ahead are impossible to predict precisely, but historic debt levels are not worked off in a few years, especially when the debt is accelerating.
2Reduce or get rid of something by work or activity: one of those gimmicks for working off aggression
More example sentences
  • Turn idle time into exercise time, and it really works, works the weight off.
  • Corman set neophytes to work off their baby fat on projects like Battle Beyond the Sun (Coppola) and Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (Bogdanovich).
  • The cartoonish characters and the self-indulgent venting made you think the author was using his art to work off private resentments both old and new.

work out

1(Of an equation) be capable of being solved.
Example sentences
  • The way things worked was easy… I can show you how an algebra equation works out on paper.
  • If you offer no resistance to your own magick, Carroll's equations work out in your favor.
1.1 (work out at) Be calculated at: the losses work out at $2.94 a share
More example sentences
  • By my calculations, this worked out at £10 per foreign word on the menu.
  • Since 1999 the index has fallen by more than 2,800 points, and the loss to EFM on this basis would work out at £17m.
  • That's an individual rate of 200 fines annually per warden, which works out at just one successful fine per warden every 1.8 days.
2Have a good or specified result: things don’t always work out that way
More example sentences
  • An example of false optimism: ‘Everything always works out in the end.’
  • But we've been in bad situations before, and everything has always worked out.
  • Everywhere I have been, people think I always have the answers because everything always works out.
end up, turn out, go, come out, develop;
happen, occur
informal pan out
3Engage in vigorous physical exercise or training, typically at a gym.
Example sentences
  • He was doing Pilates and working out with oversized exercise balls long before either became trendy.
  • Stewart has been spending a lot of the off season in town, working out with teammates and studying with Gilbride.
  • I don't care how many hours a day an athlete works out or how many women have commented on his ‘glistening, rippling muscles,’ the rest of us do not need to see him naked.

work someone out

Understand someone’s character.
Example sentences
  • His hands are tender rather than frantic, he's concentrating, working me out, paying attention to detail, reciprocating in kind rather than just grabbing what's on offer.
  • There is an obvious temptation to stay with a winning line-out but, very clearly, in this age of detailed video analysis, the other countries have worked Scotland out.
  • He's so good in fact it seems virtually no one has worked him out.

work something out

1Solve a sum or determine an amount by calculation.
Example sentences
  • Precise mathematical calculations are worked out and this determines how a person's life is affected.
  • But when you work it out, it amounts to 6 percent.
  • I just did a quiz at the Guardian designed to figure out how much money you should be earning - it works it out by assessing your IQ.
calculate, compute, determine, reckon (up)
1.1Solve or find the answer to something: I couldn’t work out whether it was a band playing or a record
More example sentences
  • For those of you who I sent the ‘Freaky site’ email to and who haven't worked it out, here is the answer.
  • Panych doesn't give us a pat answer, so it's up to the company to work it out.
  • They will demonstrate how the culinary magic of Mangalore could be worked out with three ingredients that create the characteristic taste of Mangalore - fish, rice and coconut.
understand, comprehend, sort out, make sense of, get to the bottom of, make head(s) or tail(s) of, unravel, decipher, decode, puzzle out
informal figure out
2Plan or devise something in detail: work out a seating plan
More example sentences
  • I'd say most of the responses lean toward staying together and working it out, as will mine.
  • But Caron stood his ground until licensing deals were worked out for all the music and at last Seasons 1 & 2 of Moonlighting are available on DVD.
  • He orchestrated a group of 21 senators, led by Abraham, to urge Meissner to delay further implementation of the student-tracking system until the fee system could be worked out.
devise, formulate, draw up, put together, develop, construct, arrange, organize, contrive, concoct;
hammer out, negotiate
3 literary Accomplish or attain something with difficulty: malicious fates are bent on working out an ill intent
4 (usually be worked out) Work a mine until it is exhausted of minerals.
Example sentences
  • Cornish production supplied most of the needs of Britain and Europe until the mid-19th cent. when many mines were worked out.
  • This became Europe's most important source of gold until the deposits were worked out by the 1760s.

work someone over

informal Treat someone with violence; beat someone severely: the cops had worked him over a little just for the fun of it
More example sentences
  • Any time life works us over to the degree that we experience combined physical and mental pain (usually stemming from some kind of loss), we are in the realm of alchemy.
  • It looked like someone had worked him over to get him to say what they wanted him to say.
  • They can work you over in an alley while singing an opera.

work through

Go through a process of understanding and accepting (a painful or difficult situation): they should be allowed to feel the pain and work through their emotions
More example sentences
  • Van tries to wait in the shadows of Kristinâs life while she works through the grieving process.
  • His mind began to turn as to how he was going to work through the situation as it was presented.
  • He is an excellent mediator with a lot of skills to try and work through these difficult times.

work to

Follow or operate within the constraints of (a plan or system): working to tight deadlines
More example sentences
  • She went back to the art a few years ago, however, and now works to commission.
  • It works to the highest musical standards and has won acclaim for its performances across a whole range of venues.
  • Not that he's looking for excuses, just proof that his specialism works to very fine margins.

work up to

Proceed gradually toward (something more advanced or intense): the course starts with landing technique, working up to jumps from an enclosed platform
More example sentences
  • Medical experts who have experience with MSM suggest starting with 1,000 mg a day, in either capsule or crystal form, and gradually working up to 4,000 mg daily.
  • Do crunches 3 days a week, beginning with 2 sets of 10 reps each and gradually working up to 3 sets of 15 reps.
  • Do as many wall push-ups as you can, gradually working up to 10 repetitions.

work someone up

(often get worked up) Gradually bring someone, especially oneself, to a state of intense excitement, anger, or anxiety: he got all worked up and started shouting and swearing
More example sentences
  • You psyche yourself up for the operation, go without food the night before and don't get much sleep because you are worked up.
  • Music makes us swoon, yearn, weep, laugh, gets us all lovey-dovey or can work us up into an aggressive, martial frenzy.
  • And most of us shudder at the idea of ridding the monarchy of the pomp and pageantry that routinely works us up into a collective frenzy.

work something up

1Bring something gradually to a more complete or satisfactory state: painters were accustomed to working up compositions from drawings
More example sentences
  • The first is where you have some wax and you work it up and bring some things in.
  • He works his paintings up from informative sketches.
2Develop or produce by activity or effort: despite the cold, George had already worked up a fair sweat
More example sentences
  • Exercise is one way to work up a sweat and promote detoxification from the body.
  • But that means travellers would barely work up a sweat before their train arrived.
  • Here's my favorite boy toy working up some elbow grease, de-furring the couch with a cat-hair-catching sponge.
stimulate, rouse, raise, arouse, awaken, excite



Example sentences
  • They live in whole streets of workless households and it is hard to try and leave that behind.
  • Without substantial investment, the Government will not achieve its stated aims of ending child poverty and reducing the number of workless families, it says.
  • Instead by bringing workless people closer to the labour market and making them more effective at competing for jobs, total employment can be increased.


Example sentences
  • For too long, council estates have experienced a culture of worklessness.
  • We are today announcing a radical move to tackle worklessness.
  • Click here to download data about concentrations of worklessness in your area.


Old English weorc (noun), wyrcan (verb), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch werk and German Werk, from an Indo-European root shared by Greek ergon.

  • Work is connected with the Greek word ergon, which is the source of energy (late 16th century), ergonomic [1950s], and surgeon. Wrought, meaning ‘made in a particular way’ and found in wrought iron (early 18th century), is the old past form of work, which people used where we now use worked. Wright, a common surname that means ‘maker’ and is found in words such as shipwright (Old English) and wheelwright (Middle English), is also closely related to work. The first workaholic was mentioned in 1968. Since then we have had chocaholics and shopaholics, but the first word to be formed in this way from alcoholic was foodaholic, in 1965. The dictum ‘Work expands so as to fill the time available’ is known as Parkinson's law. It was first expressed by Professor C. Northcote Parkinson in 1955. Much older is the proverb All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, which is first found in 1659. See also devil

Words that rhyme with work

berk, berserk, Burke, cirque, dirk, Dunkirk, erk, irk, kirk, lurk, mirk, murk, outwork, perk, quirk, shirk, smirk, stirk, Turk

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: work

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