[ wurk ]
See synonyms for work on
  1. exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something; labor; toil.

  2. productive or operative activity.

  1. employment, as in some form of industry, especially as a means of earning one's livelihood: to look for work.

  2. one's place of employment: Don't phone him at work.

  3. something on which exertion or labor is expended; a task or undertaking: The students finished their work in class.

  4. materials, things, etc., on which one is working or is to work.

  5. the result of exertion, labor, or activity; a deed or performance.

  6. a product of exertion, labor, or activity: musical works.

  7. Often works. an engineering structure, as a building or bridge.

  8. a building, wall, trench, or the like, constructed or made as a means of fortification.

  9. works,

    • (used with a singular or plural verb) a place or establishment for manufacturing (often used in combination): ironworks.

    • the working parts of a machine: the works of a watch.

    • Theology. righteous deeds.

  10. Physics. force times the distance through which it acts; specifically, the transference of energy equal to the product of the component of a force that acts in the direction of the motion of the point of application of the force and the distance through which the point of application moves.

  11. the works, Informal.

    • everything; all related items or matters: a hamburger with the works.

    • harsh or cruel treatment: to give someone the works.

  1. of, for, or concerning work: work clothes.

verb (used without object),worked or (Archaic) wrought;working.
  1. to do work; labor.

  2. to be employed, especially as a means of earning one's livelihood: He hasn't worked for six weeks.

  1. to be in operation, as a machine: The water should not be disconnected while the pump is working.

  2. to act or operate effectively: We all agree that this plan works.

  3. to attain a specified condition, as by repeated movement: The nails worked loose.

  4. to have an effect or influence, as on a person or on the mind or feelings of a person.

  5. to move in agitation, as the features under strong emotion.

  6. to make way with effort or under stress: The ship works to windward.

  7. Nautical. to give slightly at the joints, as a vessel under strain at sea.

  8. Machinery. to move improperly, as from defective fitting of parts or from wear.

  9. to undergo treatment by labor in a given way: This dough works slowly.

  10. to ferment, as a liquid.

verb (used with object),worked or ( Archaic except for 29, 31, 34 ) wrought;working.
  1. to use or manage (an apparatus, contrivance, etc.): It is easy to work the camera in this mobile device.She can work many power tools.

  2. to bring about (any result) by or as by work or effort: to work a change.

  1. to manipulate or treat by labor: to work butter.

  2. to put into effective operation.

  3. to operate (a mine, farm, etc.) for productive purposes: to work a coal mine.

  4. to carry on operations in (a district or region).

  5. to make, fashion, or execute by work.

  6. to achieve or win by work or effort: to work one's passage.

  7. to keep (a person, a horse, etc.) at work: She works her employees hard.

  8. to cause a strong emotion in: to work a crowd into a frenzy.

  9. to influence or persuade, especially insidiously: to work other people to one's will.

  10. Informal. to exploit (someone or something) to one's advantage: See if you can work your uncle for a new car. He worked his charm in landing a new job.

  11. to make or decorate by needlework or embroidery: She worked a needlepoint cushion.

  12. to cause fermentation in.

Verb Phrases
  1. work in / into

    • to bring or put in; add, merge, or blend: The tailor worked in the patch skillfully. Work the cream into the hands until it is completely absorbed.

    • to arrange a time or employment for: The dentist was very busy, but said she would be able to work me in late in the afternoon. They worked him into the new operation.

  2. work off,

    • to lose or dispose of, as by exercise or labor: We decided to work off the effects of a heavy supper by walking for an hour.

    • to pay or fulfill by working: He worked off his debt by doing odd jobs.

  1. work on / upon to exercise influence on; persuade; affect: I'll work on her, and maybe she'll change her mind.

  2. work out,

    • to bring about by work, effort, or action.

    • to solve, as a problem.

    • to arrive at by or as by calculation.

    • to pay (a debt) by working instead of paying money.

    • to exhaust, as a mine.

    • to issue in a result.

    • to evolve; elaborate.

    • to amount to (a total or specified figure); add up (to): The total works out to 176.

    • to prove effective or successful: Their marriage just didn't work out.

    • to practice, exercise, or train, especially in order to become proficient in an athletic sport: The boxers are working out at the gym tonight.

  3. work over,

    • to study or examine thoroughly: For my term paper I worked over 30 volumes of Roman history.

    • Informal. to beat unsparingly, especially in order to obtain something or out of revenge: They threatened to work him over until he talked.

  4. work through, to deal with successfully; come to terms with: to work through one's feelings of guilt.

  5. work up,

    • to move or stir the feelings; excite.

    • to prepare; elaborate: Work up some plans.

    • to increase in efficiency or skill: He worked up his typing speed to 70 words a minute.

  6. work up to, rise to a higher position; advance: He worked up to the presidency.

Idioms about work

  1. at work,

    • working, as at one's job: He's at work on a new novel.

    • in action or operation: to see the machines at work.

  2. gum up the works, Slang. to spoil something, as through blundering or stupidity: The surprise party was all arranged, but her little brother gummed up the works and told her.

  1. in the works, in preparation or being planned: A musical version of the book is in the works.

  2. make short work of, to finish or dispose of quickly: We made short work of the chocolate layer cake.

  3. out of work, unemployed; jobless: Many people in the area were out of work.

  4. shoot the works, Slang. to spend all one's resources: Let's shoot the works and order the crêpes suzette.

  5. work it, Informal.

    • to arrange something: I'll try to work it so that we can all travel together.

    • to show off one’s body or clothing to best effect, often through movement or posing: The models were working it on the runway.Work it on the dance floor, baby!

Origin of work

First recorded before 900; (noun) Middle English worke, Old English worc, replacing Middle English werk(e), Old English weorc, cognate with Old Frisian, Old Saxon werk, Old High German werah, werc (German Werk ), Old Norse verk, Greek érgon; (verb) Middle English worken, derivative of the noun, replacing Middle English wyrchen, Old English wyrcean; cognate with German wirken, Old Norse verkja, Gothic waurkjan

Other words for work

Opposites for work

Other words from work

  • nonwork, noun
  • pre·work, verb, pre·worked or pre·wrought, pre·work·ing.
  • prework, noun, adjective

Words Nearby work

Other definitions for Work (2 of 2)

[ wurk ]

  1. Henry Clay, 1832–84, U.S. songwriter. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use work in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for work


/ (wɜːk) /

  1. physical or mental effort directed towards doing or making something

  2. paid employment at a job or a trade, occupation, or profession

  1. a duty, task, or undertaking

  2. something done, made, etc, as a result of effort or exertion: a work of art

  3. materials or tasks on which to expend effort or exertion

  4. another word for workmanship (def. 3)

  5. the place, office, etc, where a person is employed

  6. any piece of material that is undergoing a manufacturing operation or process; workpiece

    • decoration or ornamentation, esp of a specified kind

    • (in combination): wirework; woolwork

  7. an engineering structure such as a bridge, building, etc

  8. physics the transfer of energy expressed as the product of a force and the distance through which its point of application moves in the direction of the force: Abbreviation: W, w

  9. a structure, wall, etc, built or used as part of a fortification system

  10. at work

    • at one's job or place of employment

    • in action; operating

  11. make short work of informal to handle or dispose of very quickly

  12. (modifier) of, relating to, or used for work: work clothes; a work permit

  1. (intr) to exert effort in order to do, make, or perform something

  2. (intr) to be employed

  1. (tr) to carry on operations, activity, etc, in (a place or area): that salesman works the southern region

  2. (tr) to cause to labour or toil: he works his men hard

  3. to operate or cause to operate, esp properly or effectively: to work a lathe; that clock doesn't work

  4. (tr) to till or cultivate (land)

  5. to handle or manipulate or be handled or manipulated: to work dough

  6. to shape, form, or process or be shaped, formed, or processed: to work copper

  7. to reach or cause to reach a specific condition, esp gradually: the rope worked loose

  8. (tr) mainly US and Canadian to solve (a mathematical problem)

  9. (intr) to move in agitation: his face worked with anger

  10. (tr often foll by up) to provoke or arouse: to work someone into a frenzy

  11. (tr) to effect or accomplish: to work one's revenge

  12. to make (one's way) with effort: he worked his way through the crowd

  13. (tr) to make or decorate by hand in embroidery, tapestry, etc: she was working a sampler

  14. (intr) (of a mechanism) to move in a loose or otherwise imperfect fashion

  15. (intr) (of liquids) to ferment, as in brewing

  16. (tr) informal to manipulate or exploit to one's own advantage

  17. (tr) slang to cheat or swindle

Origin of work

Old English weorc (n), wircan, wyrcan (vb); related to Old High German wurchen, German wirken, Old Norse yrkja, Gothic waurkjan

Derived forms of work

  • workless, adjective
  • worklessness, noun

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 work


[ wûrk ]

  1. The transfer of energy from one object to another, especially in order to make the second object move in a certain direction. Work is equal to the amount of force multiplied by the distance over which it is applied. If a force of 10 newtons, for example, is applied over a distance of 3 meters, the work is equal to 30 newtons per meter, or 30 joules. The unit for measuring work is the same as that for energy in any system of units, since work is simply a transfer of energy. Compare energy power.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for work


In physics, the product of a force applied, and the distance through which that force acts.

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.

Other Idioms and Phrases with work


In addition to the idioms beginning with work

  • work both sides of the street
  • worked up, be
  • work in
  • work it
  • work like a beaver
  • work like a charm
  • work off
  • work on
  • work one's fingers to the bone
  • work one's way
  • work out
  • work over
  • work up
  • work wonders

also see:

  • all in a day's work
  • all work and no play
  • at work
  • busy work
  • dirty work
  • get down to (work)
  • good works
  • gum up (the works)
  • have one's work cut out
  • in the works
  • make short work of
  • many hands make light work
  • out of work
  • shoot the works
  • the works
  • turn (work) out all right

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.