Definition: Labor

From New World Encyclopedia


From Middle English labouren, from Old French laborer, from Latin laborare (to labor, strive, exert oneself, suffer, be in distress, to work out, elaborate), from labor (labor, toil, work, exertion); perhaps remotely akin to robur (strength”‎). Displaced native English swink (toil, labor).


labor (countable and uncountable, plural labors) (American spelling)

  1. Effort expended on a particular task; toil, work.
  2. That which requires hard work for its accomplishment; that which demands effort.
  3. (uncountable) Workers in general; the working class, the workforce; sometimes specifically the labor movement, organised labor.
  4. (uncountable) A political party or force aiming or claiming to represent the interests of labor.
  5. (medicine, obstetrics) 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. (historical) A traditional unit of area in Mexico and Texas, equivalent to 177.1 acres or 71.67 ha.

Usage notes

Like many others ending in -our/-or, this word is spelled labour in the UK and labor in the U.S. As such, labor is the more common spelling of the unit. 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.

Derived terms

Related terms

  • laborious
  • laboral


labor (third-person singular simple present labors, present participle laboring, simple past and past participle labored) (American spelling)

  1. To toil, to work.
  2. To belabor, to emphasise or expand upon (a point in a debate, etc).
    I think we've all got the idea. There's no need to labor 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.
  4. To suffer the pangs of childbirth.
  5. (nautical) To pitch or roll heavily, as a ship in a turbulent sea.

Derived terms

  • laborer
  • laborism
  • laborist
  • laborite
  • labor-saving

Related terms

  • laboratory


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