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Also especially British, la·bour .

Origin of labor

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English labour, from Old French, from Latin labōr- (stem of labor ) “work”

historical usage of labor

The English noun labor comes into English via Old French labor, labour (French labeur ) from Latin labōr-, the inflectional stem of the noun labor “labor, work, toil.” The Latin noun has just about all the meanings of English labor (including that of childbirth), but not the relatively modern English sense “workers, manual workers taken together as a social group or class,” which dates from the 19th century.
The Latin etymology for labor is obscure: the noun may be related to the verb lābī (which has a long ā ) “to move smoothly, slide” (commonly with implication of downward movement). Lābī in its turn may be related to labāre (with a short a in the root syllable) “to be unsteady on one’s feet, falter, totter.” These derivatives of lāb- and lab- may be related to the Latin nouns labium (the source of English labial ) and labrum, both meaning “lip” and, outside Latin, to the Greek noun lobós “lobe (of the ear, liver, or lung), pod (of a vegetable), slip (of a plant)” (and source of English lobe ).

OTHER WORDS FROM labor

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

MORE ABOUT LABOR

What does labor mean?

Labor is any productive activity, usually in exchange for money or other value, as in My labor in the garden paid off in lots of fresh veggies.

While labor can be any productive activity, it is most often associated with work that is done by moving the body and using tools.

Labor also describes the collection of people doing the work. The labor force is a specific set of employees for an organization or the entire class of people who do physical, or manual, labor.

Labor can be used to mean to perform productive work. While laboring is normally for profit or payment, you might also labor at something like gardening or cleaning. Often, used in this way labor carries a sense of perseverance or adversity, meaning that the person laboring is having a difficult time.

Labor is also the name of the process a female mammal goes through while giving birth. It can describe the whole period from the time that uterine contractions begin until the offspring is born, or it can describe the contractions specifically.

Example: I labor all day just to come home and sleep all night.

Where does labor come from?

The first records of the term labor come from the late 1200s. It ultimately comes from the Latin labōr, meaning “work.”

Labor Day is a holiday that is celebrated in many countries around the globe. It honors all workers, but especially those who perform manual labor. Labor Day has different origins for many countries, and is celebrated at different times of the year. While many countries celebrate Labor Day on May 1, the United States celebrates it on the first Monday in September. In some countries it’s known as International Workers’ Day. Whenever it’s celebrated, setting aside a day to honor labor helps us appreciate the hard work of ourselves and others.

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to labor?

  • laboringly (adverb)
  • laborless (adjective)
  • antilabor (adjective)
  • prelabor (noun, verb)
  • prolabor (adjective)

What are some synonyms for labor?

What are some words that share a root or word element with labor

What are some words that often get used in discussing labor?

How is labor used in real life?

Labor is a common word that most often refers to hard work.

Try using labor!

Which of the following is NOT a synonym for labor

A. work
B. job
C. idleness
D. industry

WHEN TO USE

What are other ways to say labor?

Labor refers to mental or physical work, especially that which is hard or fatiguing. When should you use labor instead of work, drudgery, or toil? Find out on Thesaurus.com.

How to use labor in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for labor

labor
/ (ˈleɪbə) /

verb, noun
the US spelling of labour
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

Scientific definitions for labor

labor
[ lābər ]

The process by which the birth of a mammal occurs, beginning with contractions of the uterus and ending with the expulsion of the fetus and the placenta.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for labor

labor

The physical processes at the end of a normal pregnancy, including opening of the cervix and contractions of the uterus, that lead to the birth of the baby.

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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