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[truh-veyl, trav-eyl] /trəˈveɪl, ˈtræv eɪl/
painfully difficult or burdensome work; toil.
pain, anguish or suffering resulting from mental or physical hardship.
the pain of childbirth.
verb (used without object)
to suffer the pangs of childbirth; be in labor.
to toil or exert oneself.
Origin of travail
1200-50; (v.) Middle English travaillen < Old French travaillier to torment < Vulgar Latin *trepaliāre to torture, derivative of Late Latin trepālium torture chamber, literally, instrument of torture made with three stakes (see tri-, pale2); (noun) Middle English < Old French: suffering, derivative of travailler
1. labor, moil. 2. torment, agony. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for travail
Historical Examples
  • As he drove he mused over what travail would say when he saw these shells.

    Made in Tanganyika Carl Richard Jacobi
  • But it could be that travail knew of the value of Sutter's shell collection.

    Made in Tanganyika Carl Richard Jacobi
  • "I was looking for my tobacco pouch," travail replied easily.

    Made in Tanganyika Carl Richard Jacobi
  • "I'll do nothing of the sort," said travail, starting to back away.

    Made in Tanganyika Carl Richard Jacobi
  • His hands shook, his stalwart frame trembled as with the agony of travail.

    His Masterpiece Emile Zola
  • Pray that He may see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied with each of them.

    Things as They Are Amy Wilson-Carmichael
  • And pray that we may enter into that travail of soul with Him.

    Things as They Are Amy Wilson-Carmichael
  • His mind had been in travail; his soul had known the pangs of labor.

    The Lion's Skin Rafael Sabatini
  • She did not seem to be in pain, and yet in travail of some sort.

    The Web of the Golden Spider

    Frederick Orin Bartlett
  • The skin of his head seemed to move in this travail of vain and tormenting suppositions.

    Victory Joseph Conrad
British Dictionary definitions for travail


painful or excessive labour or exertion
the pangs of childbirth; labour
(intransitive) to suffer or labour painfully, esp in childbirth
Word Origin
C13: from Old French travaillier, from Vulgar Latin tripaliāre (unattested) to torture, from Late Latin trepālium instrument of torture, from Latin tripālis having three stakes, from trēs three + pālus stake
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for travail

"labor, toil," mid-13c., from Old French travail "suffering or painful effort, trouble" (12c.), from travailler "to toil, labor," originally "to trouble, torture," from Vulgar Latin *tripaliare "to torture," from *tripalium (in Late Latin trepalium) "instrument of torture," probably from Latin tripalis "having three stakes" (from tria, tres "three" + palus "stake"), which sounds ominous, but the exact notion is obscure. The verb is recorded from late 13c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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