[ meyk-wurk ]

  1. work, usually of little importance, created to keep a person from being idle or unemployed.

Origin of make-work

1935–40, Americanism; noun use of verb phrase make work

Words Nearby make-work Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use make-work in a sentence

  • "Dear me, Miss Salome, pray don't make work like that," said Stevens.

    Salome | Emma Marshall
  • "Well, whoever it was managed to move about enough to make work for me to clear up," Mrs. Seaford said.

  • The danger, however, is that the use of form letters tends to make work mechanical.

    Business English | Rose Buhlig

Cultural definitions for make-work


Publicly provided employment that is designed primarily to relieve unemployment and only incidentally to accomplish important tasks. If private employers are hiring few people because of a business slump, the government can “make work” for people to do.

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.