synonyms, antonyms, definitions, examples & translations of labour in English

English Online Dictionary. What means labour‎? What does labour mean?


Alternative forms

  • labor (American)


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).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈleɪ.bə/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈleɪ.bɚ/
  • Rhymes: -eɪbə(ɹ)


labour (countable and uncountable, plural labours) (British spelling, Canadian, Australian spelling, New Zealand spelling)

  1. Effort expended on a particular task; toil, work.
    • 1719, Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
      [] so I set myself to enlarge my cave, and work farther into the earth; for it was a loose sandy rock, which yielded easily to the labour I bestowed on it []
  2. That which requires hard work for its accomplishment; that which demands effort.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Richard Hooker
      Being a labour of so great a difficulty, the exact performance thereof we may rather wish than look for.
  3. (uncountable) Workers in general; the working class, the workforce; sometimes specifically the labour movement, organised labour.
  4. (uncountable) A political party or force aiming or claiming to represent the interests of labour.
  5. The act of a mother giving birth.
  6. The time period during which a mother gives birth.
  7. (nautical) The pitching or tossing of a vessel which results in the straining of timbers and rigging.
  8. An old measure of land area in Mexico and Texas, approximately 177 acres.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Bartlett to this entry?)

Usage notes

Like many others ending in -our/-or, this word is spelled labour in the UK and labor in the U.S.; 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.

  • Adjectives often used with "labour": physical, mental, skilled, technical, organised.


  • swink, toil, work

Derived terms

  • labour-intensive
  • (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, Australian spelling, New Zealand spelling)

  1. (intransitive) To toil, to work.
  2. (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.
  3. 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.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Granville
      the stone that labours up the hill
    • (Can we date this quote?) Alexander Pope
      The line too labours, and the words move slow.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Sir Walter Scott
      to cure the disorder under which he laboured
  4. To suffer the pangs of childbirth.
  5. (nautical) To pitch or roll heavily, as a ship in a turbulent sea.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Totten to this entry?)

Derived terms

  • labourer
  • labourism
  • labourist
  • labourite
  • labour-saving
  • marmalade labour

Related terms

  • laboratory
  • laborious


Further reading

  • labour 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.




  1. work, job



Deverbal of labourer. See also labeur.


labour m (plural labours)

  1. cultivation

Related terms

  • labourable
  • labourage
  • labourer

Further reading

  • “labour” in le Trésor de la langue française informatisé (The Digitized Treasury of the French Language).

Old French


labour m (oblique plural labours, nominative singular labours, nominative plural labour)

  1. (late Anglo-Norman) Alternative spelling of labur

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This article based on an article on Wiktionary. The list of authors can be seen in the page history there. The original work has been modified. This article is distributed under the terms of this license.