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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 travailing
Historical Examples
  • Look at the happiness of the sun, who travailing never tires.

    Vikram and the Vampire Richard F. Burton
  • Our pains were not small or light, but travailing daily from chamber to chamber.

    Hampton Court Walter Jerrold
  • Towards this resurrection all creation is groaning and travailing.

    The Gospel of St. John Frederick Denison Maurice
  • There is a pause in the hurry, in the sorrow, of this travailing world; there is a hush.

    The Near East Robert Hichens
  • And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

  • The good swell is the creature towards which all nature has been groaning and travailing together until now.

  • It seemed inexplicable to her that women went on travailing and giving birth.

  • The earnest expectation of a groaning and travailing creation does wait for the revealing of the sons of God.

    The Bible and Life Edwin Holt Hughes
  • They represent the whole creation as groaning and travailing in pain, but that the creature also shall be delivered.

    The Government of God John Taylor
  • They know themselves re-born in soul, and are dimly aware that the world is travailing toward new birth with them.

    Carry On Coningsby Dawson
British Dictionary definitions for travailing


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 travailing



"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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