[ truh-veyl, trav-eyl ]
/ trəˈveɪl, ˈtræv eɪl /
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See synonyms for: travail / travailed / travailing / travails on Thesaurus.com


painfully difficult or burdensome work; toil.
pain, anguish or suffering resulting from mental or physical hardship.
the pain of childbirth.

verb (used without object)

to suffer the pangs of childbirth; be in labor.
to toil or exert oneself.



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“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.

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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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

Example sentences from the Web for travail

British Dictionary definitions for travail

/ (ˈtræveɪl) literary /


painful or excessive labour or exertion
the pangs of childbirth; labour


(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