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Labor Day

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noun
(in the U.S.) a legal holiday, commonly the first Monday in September, in honor of labor.
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Compare Labour Day.

Origin of Labor Day

First recorded in 1885–90
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What is Labor Day?

Labor Day is a U.S. federal holiday in honor of workers.

Though some use the day to honor the role of workers and to commemorate the labor movement, there is often less emphasis on these things in the U.S., where most people associate the day with its status as the unofficial end of summer (just as Memorial Day is considered the unofficial start of summer).

It is often celebrated with informal gatherings with family and friends, such as backyard barbecues. The weekend encompassing Labor Day and the Saturday and Sunday before it is often called Labor Day weekend.

The holiday known as Labour Day (which has the same origins) is observed in many places around the world, though often on a different date. It is sometimes called International Workers’ Day or simply Workers’ Day.

When is Labor Day?

In 2021, Labor Day will fall on September 6. In 2022, Labor Day will fall on September 5.

Labor Day falls on the first Monday in September every year. This same date is used in Canada, where the day is known as Labour Day.

In most locations, the holiday known as Labour Day occurs on May 1, a day also observed in some places as May Day. In New Zealand, Labour Day falls on the fourth Monday in October. Different places in Australia observe Labour Day on different dates, including on May 1.

More information and context on Labor Day

The first records of the term Labor Day come from the late 1880s. A day to commemorate workers and the struggle for the rights of workers and proper working conditions was first proposed in the 1800s. In the late 1880s, the date May 1 was chosen to commemorate labor protests at Haymarket Square in Chicago in 1886. At that time, workers went on strike to demand an eight-hour workday. In what became known as the Haymarket Riot or the Haymarket Affair, police killed several protesters, and a bomb was thrown at police. Although the person behind the bombing was never identified, some anarchist organizers were arrested and sentenced to death for the incident.

In the U.S., the holiday known as Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894. May 1 had been observed in honor of workers and the labor movement prior to that time, but President Grover Cleveland is credited with promoting the move to the first Monday in September to distance the day from its anarchist and socialist origins.

Today, in some locations, especially where the name Labour Day is used, the day is marked by parades and political demonstrations to call for reforms and bring attention to the ongoing work of labor unions.

As is the case for many other holidays in the U.S., Labor Day is also used by many retailers as an opportunity to have sales—meaning that many retail workers have to work on the day despite its aim of honoring workers.

What are some terms that often get used in discussing Labor Day?

How is Labor Day discussed in real life?

Labor Day is often considered the unofficial end of summer in the U.S.

Try using Labor Day!

True or False?

Labor Day falls on September 6 every year.

How to use Labor Day in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for Labor Day

Labor Day

noun
(in the US and Canada) a public holiday in honour of labour, held on the first Monday in September
(in Australia) a public holiday observed on different days in different states
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

Cultural definitions for Labor Day

Labor Day

A national holiday in the United States and Canada in honor of working people. Labor Day is observed on the first Monday in September.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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