productive activity, especially for the sake of economic gain.
the body of persons engaged in such activity, especially those working for wages.
this body of persons considered as a class (distinguished from and ).
physical or mental work, especially of a hard or fatiguing kind; toil.
a job or task done or to be done.
the physical effort and periodic uterine contractions of childbirth.
the interval from the onset of these contractions to childbirth.
(initial capital letter). Also called Labor Department. Informal. the Department of Labor.
to perform labor; exert one’s powers of body or mind; work; toil.
to strive, as toward a goal; work hard (often followed by for):
to labor for peace.
to act, behave, or function at a disadvantage (usually followed by under):
to labor under a misapprehension.
to be in the actual process of giving birth.
to roll or pitch heavily, as a ship.
to develop or dwell on in excessive detail:
Don’t labor the point.
to burden or tire:
to labor the reader with unnecessary detail.
British Dialect. to work or till (soil or the like).
of or relating to workers, their associations, or working conditions:
labor reforms.
verb, noun
the US spelling of labour

c.1300, “a task, a project;” later “exertion of the body; trouble, difficulty, hardship” (late 14c.), from Old French labor “labor, toil, work, exertion, task” (12c., Modern French labeur), from Latin laborem (nominative labor) “labor, toil, exertion; hardship, pain, fatigue; a work, a product of labor,” of uncertain origin, perhaps originally from the notion of “tottering under a burden,” and related to labere “to totter.”

Meaning “body of laborers considered as a class” (usually contrasted to capitalists) is from 1839. Sense of “physical exertions of childbirth” is 1590s, earlier labour of birthe (early 15c.), a sense also found in Old French, and cf. French en travail “in (childbirth) suffering” (see travail). Labor Day first marked 1882 in New York City.

late 14c., “perform manual or physical work; work hard; keep busy; take pains, strive, endeavor” (also “copulate”), from Old French laborer “work, toil; struggle, have difficulty,” from Latin laborare, from labor (see labor (n.)). The verb in modern French, Spanish, Portuguese means “to plow;” the wider sense being taken by the equivalent of English travail. Sense of “to endure pain, suffer” is early 15c., especially in phrase labor of child. Related: Labored; laboring.

labor la·bor (lā’bər)
The physical efforts of expulsion of the fetus and the placenta from the uterus during parturition. v. la·bored, la·bor·ing, la·bors
To undergo the efforts of childbirth.
The process by which the birth of a mammal occurs, beginning with contractions of the uterus and ending with the expulsion of the fetus and the placenta.

The physical processes at the end of a normal pregnancy, including opening of the cervix and contractions of the uterus, that lead to the birth of the baby.

Related Terms

grunt work


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