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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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for travailing
Historical Examples
  • Why, we shall soon have you believing that only you in this groaning and travailing creation suffer.

  • 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
  • And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

  • On the contrary, the travailing woman should be honoured for her peril, and counted holy as Nature suggests.

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

  • But prophecy tells us that the sorrows of a travailing woman came upon the now kingless city.

    The Expositor's Bible F. W. Farrar
  • 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
  • To relax the intense nerve or deaden the travailing brain would have been painful and grievous to him.

    William Blake Algernon Charles Swinburne
  • 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
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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