noun, verb (used with or without object), adjective Chiefly British.

Nearby words

  1. laboriously,
  2. laborism,
  3. laborite,
  4. labors of hercules,
  5. laborsaving,
  6. labour and socialist international,
  7. labour camp,
  8. labour day,
  9. labour exchange,
  10. labour law

Related formsan·ti·la·bour, adjective

Usage note

See -or1.




productive activity, especially for the sake of economic gain.
the body of persons engaged in such activity, especially those working for wages.
this body of persons considered as a class (distinguished from management and capital).
physical or mental work, especially of a hard or fatiguing kind; toil.
a job or task done or to be done.
the physical effort and periodic uterine contractions of childbirth.
the interval from the onset of these contractions to childbirth.
(initial capital letter) Also called Labor Department. Informal. the Department of Labor.

verb (used without object)

to perform labor; exert one's powers of body or mind; work; toil.
to strive, as toward a goal; work hard (often followed by for): to labor for peace.
to act, behave, or function at a disadvantage (usually followed by under): to labor under a misapprehension.
to be in the actual process of giving birth.
to roll or pitch heavily, as a ship.

verb (used with object)

to develop or dwell on in excessive detail: Don't labor the point.
to burden or tire: to labor the reader with unnecessary detail.
British Dialect. to work or till (soil or the like).


of or relating to workers, their associations, or working conditions: labor reforms.
Also especially British, la·bour.

Origin of labor

1250–1300; Middle English labour < Middle French < Latin labōr- (stem of labor) work

2. working people, working class. 4. exertion. See work. 6. parturition, delivery. 9. drudge. 14. overdo.

1, 4. idleness; leisure. 1, 4, 9. rest.

Related forms Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for labour

British Dictionary definitions for labour


US labor


productive work, esp physical toil done for wages
  1. the people, class, or workers involved in this, esp in contrast to management, capital, etc
  2. (as modifier)a labour dispute; labour relations
  1. difficult or arduous work or effort
  2. (in combination)labour-saving
a particular job or task, esp of a difficult nature
  1. the process or effort of childbirth or the time during which this takes place
  2. (as modifier)labour pains
labour of love something done for pleasure rather than gain


(intr) to perform labour; work
(intr; foll by for, etc) to strive or work hard (for something)
(intr usually foll by under) to be burdened (by) or be at a disadvantage (because of)to labour under a misapprehension
(intr) to make one's way with difficulty
(tr) to deal with or treat too persistentlyto labour a point
(intr) (of a woman) to be in labour
(intr) (of a ship) to pitch and toss
Derived Formslabouringly or US laboringly, adverb

Word Origin for labour

C13: via Old French from Latin labor; perhaps related to lābī to fall


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

Word Origin and History for labour
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for labour




The physical efforts of expulsion of the fetus and the placenta from the uterus during parturition.


To undergo the efforts of childbirth.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Science definitions for labour



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.

Culture definitions for labour


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.