[truh-veyl, trav-eyl]
See more synonyms for travail on
  1. painfully difficult or burdensome work; toil.
  2. pain, anguish or suffering resulting from mental or physical hardship.
  3. the pain of childbirth.
verb (used without object)
  1. to suffer the pangs of childbirth; be in labor.
  2. 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

Synonyms for travail

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for travailing

Historical Examples of travailing

  • 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

  • Towards this resurrection all creation is groaning and travailing.

    The Gospel of St. John

    Frederick Denison Maurice

  • There is a pause in the hurry, in the sorrow, of this travailing world; there is a hush.

    The Near East

    Robert Hichens

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

British Dictionary definitions for travailing


  1. painful or excessive labour or exertion
  2. the pangs of childbirth; labour
  1. (intr) to suffer or labour painfully, esp in childbirth

Word Origin for travail

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

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