Definition of labour in English:

labour

(US labor)

noun

mass noun
  • 1Work, especially physical work.

    ‘the price of repairs includes labour, parts, and VAT’
    ‘manual labour’
    • ‘Next time, though, I'll be employing my teenage cousins to do the manual labour and keeping my hands out of the sink.’
    • ‘The majority of migrant workers earn their living in the city by doing manual labour.’
    • ‘The men go off and look for casual labour during the day while women and children spend the day looking for shade.’
    • ‘Most are low-end workers doing street-cleaning or other manual labor.’
    • ‘These subjects were agricultural workers with varying periods of manual labour in the field.’
    • ‘According to him, many unwaged Russians survive on handouts from friends and relatives, subsistence agriculture, casual labour, petty trading or petty crime.’
    • ‘Since the start of the industrial revolution people have been paid a pittance for manual labor.’
    task, job, chore, undertaking, mission, commission, assignment
    work, toil, employment, exertion, industry, industriousness, toiling, hard work, hard labour, drudgery, effort, the sweat of one's brow, donkey work, menial work
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Workers, especially manual workers, considered collectively.
      ‘non-union casual labour’
      • ‘The company is planning to sell or lease the mine and operate it using casual labour and new technology.’
      • ‘It also aims to replace a number of full-time workers with casual and part-time labour.’
      • ‘If the South was exceptional, it was not in worker resistance to organized labor, but employer resistance.’
      • ‘Some institutions contract the work out to casual labour with little continuity and stability for the student.’
      • ‘Wage-labour was essentially casual labour, as employed at harvest time.’
      • ‘As a result, the place is being built with non-union labor.’
      • ‘Excluding temporary manufacturing labor, 785,000 factory workers have lost their jobs over the past 11 months.’
      • ‘In this society, his job was one of the few, in which people exactly performed manual labor.’
      • ‘The tile company had callously sacked 29 regular workers and replaced them with casual labour supplied by Skilled.’
      • ‘Those who were less keen to compete for migrants could resort to convicts as casual labour.’
      • ‘Their work will be contracted out to private companies that employ largely nonunion low-paid labor.’
      • ‘The trade unions have made repeated warnings to Railtrack about the use of casual labour on the lines but to no avail.’
      • ‘The Tories were keen to get rid of the National Dock Labour Scheme, which protected dockers from casual labour.’
      • ‘I also defend our right to civil protest when city projects employ less qualified nonunion labor.’
      • ‘These people, gangmasters, have been around for years, bringing casual labour into the fields and exploiting a lot of farm workers for some time.’
      • ‘Using casual labour has become a key means by which many employers seek to evade established standards.’
      • ‘Today there is a growing acceptance of illegal casual labour and a strong demand for it.’
      • ‘Coming to the London docks he was shocked at the misery and poverty of casual labour and organized a docker's union.’
      • ‘He said there would be real implications for his company when he employed casual or part-time labour, and brought staff in and out.’
      • ‘Unions say it puts the brakes on a 20-year trend towards casual labour, but employer groups are calling it a disappointing and costly precedent.’
      workers, employees, workmen, workforce, staff, working people, blue-collar workers, hands, labourers, labour force, hired hands, proletariat, wage-earners, manpower, human resources, personnel
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 Workers considered as a social class or political force.
      as modifier ‘the labour movement’
      • ‘The labor movement's political clout is waning with most red states having right to work laws that effectively ban unions.’
      • ‘Without an understanding of the role of Stalinism and Social Democracy, the labour movement will not be able to turn once again to a socialist perspective.’
      • ‘These developments have also resulted in a political and intellectual crisis within the labour movement.’
      • ‘These objective changes in the world economy have undermined the post-war framework of labour protection and social measures.’
      • ‘But turning labour into a political force to be reckoned with in Alberta is a tall order, which McGowan clearly outlined in his paper.’
      • ‘The death of Glen Branagh is a warning to the labour movement and the working class that bloody sectarian conflict is not a thing of the past in Northern Ireland.’
      • ‘Steelworkers Canadian director Ken Neumann said the merger creates a new force in the Canadian labour movement, as well as in federal and provincial politics.’
      • ‘Your situation highlights the tragedy of the American labor movement and the dilemma facing the working class today.’
      • ‘These forces have also weakened labor movements in many other industrial countries.’
      • ‘The answer came when one delegate rose to address the notion of political action by the labour movement.’
      • ‘Fourth, the working class and labour movement, repressed, shackled, lacking independence, was no alternative.’
      • ‘Over time Walesa became active in the underground labour movement and witnessed the repression of workers' protests in the 1970s.’
      • ‘He looks to struggles independent of political parties, the official labour movement, or any other organised forces.’
      • ‘The result is that since the mid-1980s the organized labour movement was no longer a major social and political factor.’
      • ‘The working class and the labour movement are not like they were in the 1970s.’
      • ‘For Trotsky, what determined his attitude to all tendencies within the Russian social democratic labor movement was their perspective, their program.’
      • ‘For the past 25 years he has been documenting the immigrant experience in Canada, working class culture and the labour movement.’
      • ‘That same impulse brought the entire Canadian labor movement out in force.’
      • ‘From here we are treated to an account of Watson's rise through the political labour movement.’
      • ‘There is no section of the official labor movement that upholds the most elementary principles of working class solidarity.’
    3. 1.3as modifier A government department concerned with a nation's workforce.
      ‘the Labour Secretary’
      • ‘This was announced at the end of last week by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.’
  • 2treated as singular or plural The Labour Party.

    as modifier ‘the Labour leader’
    • ‘Pollster Sol Lebovic from Newspoll, says this is a reality check for Labor.’
    • ‘Downing Street has the option of going with Prescott and Labour, or with Cameron and the Tories.’
    • ‘South Swindon has a new Member of Parliament but the seat is still held by Labour.’
    • ‘Chairman of the Labour Group, Coun Norma Lincoln, said Labour would fight back.’
    • ‘Labor's Trade Spokesman Stephen Conroy has denied that Labor has caved in.’
    • ‘Okay, the Tories are gaining big from Labour and the Lib Dems in the South.’
    • ‘Pallet maker Richard Mulhall took the Illingworth seat from Labour's Zoe Marston.’
    • ‘Assuming all the above, and that Labor regains Cunningham, the Parliament would look like this.’
    • ‘I was joined a short time ago by Labor's Foreign Affairs Spokesman, Kevin Rudd.’
    • ‘Julie Flynn, the Chief Executive of Free TV Australia says Labor's ban is simplistic and won't work.’
    • ‘They seem to think that the way to beat Labour is to be more Leftist than Labour!’
    • ‘At 4.15 am on Friday, Tony Blair became the first man ever to lead Labour to a third term.’
    • ‘It is not the first time Tory James Gray and Labour's Tony Banks have clashed.’
    • ‘Concisely, here is the problem: Labor is the party of the Left.’
    • ‘The Government is using Labor's rules, after all, they say.’
    • ‘Her victory means Labour now has 37 seats on Bradford Council, one more than the Tories.’
    • ‘Teresa Page was a hard-working councillor and Labour will be sad to see her go.’
    • ‘But Labor's Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate, Chris Evans, questions that.’
    • ‘At the moment in the 25 seat House of Assembly, Labor have 14, the Liberals seven and the Greens four.’
    • ‘In the Senate, Labor's John Faulkner asked for an explanation.’
  • 3The process of childbirth from the start of uterine contractions to delivery.

    ‘a woman in labour’
    • ‘Low dose mobile epidurals are generally more attractive to women in labour than traditional epidural techniques.’
    • ‘They can also improve your posture and strengthen your abdominal muscles for labor and delivery.’
    • ‘Such rigorous application of the guidelines would, however, have resulted in antibiotics being given to 16% of all women in labour.’
    • ‘Fortunately, the body provides several clues that the onset of labor is approaching.’
    • ‘Both women spent four hours in labour and both gave birth to baby daughters.’
    • ‘The pregnancy went smoothly and Mrs Filer gave birth after being in labour for five hours.’
    • ‘By the time Michael had called them, Jamie had already been in labor four hours.’
    • ‘The challenge for obstetricians is to make sure that options for safe delivery are not limited for women who experience complications in labour.’
    • ‘They also received 300 mg every three hours while in labor until delivery.’
    • ‘I was in labour for twenty-two hours with Evan Michael's brother.’
    • ‘The drug prostaglandin is injected into the womb and this causes it to contract strongly as in labour.’
    • ‘She tells us tales of ambulances collecting women in labour to take them to the hospital delivery suites, only to be held up at a checkpoint where the women give birth.’
    • ‘It has long been the practice to allow family members to be present in labor and delivery.’
    • ‘Catherine suffered in labor for many hours, and finally the doctors had to perform a Caesarean section.’
    • ‘Red raspberry leaves are used to enhance uterine contractions once labor is initiated.’
    • ‘Measles in pregnancy can cause miscarriage, premature labour or a baby with low birth weight.’
    • ‘An HIV specialist should be contacted immediately if the diagnosis is made in labour.’
    • ‘Both Lamaze and Bradley encourage partner participation in labor and delivery.’
    • ‘It says that cerebral palsy is almost never caused by fetal distress in labor.’
    • ‘Kory's mom has been in labor for an hour and a half.’
    childbirth, birth, birthing, delivery, nativity
    View synonyms
  • 4rare A group of moles.

    ‘a labour of moles toils with the Earth’
    • ‘The labour of moles has caused some messy practical problems for the grass cutters.’
    • ‘The labor of moles dig dexterously underground.’

verb

[NO OBJECT]
  • 1Work hard; make great effort.

    ‘they laboured from dawn to dusk’
    ‘she was patiently labouring over her sketchbooks’
    • ‘For years I had labored over a manual that would include all of this.’
    • ‘Because of the current shifts and perhaps unpredictable forces in today's labour market, these demands may seem unrealistic.’
    • ‘Teachers Simon Gibson and Bob Granger have spent every spare moment between classes for the past few weeks labouring to produce a drinking cup holder for Bradley who has severely limited mobility.’
    • ‘And like Mr Sherry, Mr Hillier has laboured for many years and has likewise produced three heavy volumes, the last of which is about to see the light of day in the bookshops.’
    • ‘But those very wonders are also symbols of oppressive and overbearing states that could coerce hundreds of thousands to spend their lives laboring on projects erected to enhance the ruling class.’
    • ‘David Evans from Wales, the lanky but smooth attacker who has been quietly laboring to bring his game back to the world class form he briefly displayed four years ago, took a small step on that road last night.’
    • ‘Parts and maintenance manuals were in short supply as the ground crews labored to prepare as many P - 39s for combat as possible.’
    • ‘Suppose that one worker labors for five consecutive years to produce one such engine.’
    • ‘She seemed not to care that the rest of the class was labouring effortlessly on their reports.’
    • ‘Each labored many years as an attorney before moving to the front office.’
    • ‘At 51, she breathes with real difficulty, wheezing and labouring to draw breath as we talk.’
    • ‘In this atmosphere, the House of Representatives has labored hard.’
    • ‘This modification was typical of the hard-working ground crews who would labor day and night to find solutions for the problems that came up in this new theater of war.’
    work, work hard, toil, slave, slave away, grub away, plod away, grind away, sweat away, struggle, strive, exert oneself, overwork, work one's fingers to the bone, work like a dog, work like a slave, work like a trojan, keep one's nose to the grindstone
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Work at an unskilled manual occupation.
      ‘he was eking out an existence by labouring’
      ‘the labouring classes’
      • ‘On Saturday, John Paul slept in his old bed, visited his old street and drove by the quarry, no longer used, where he laboured during the Nazi occupation of Poland.’
      • ‘They also repaired, refitted, and caulked ships in the harbor, laboring for a $1.00 a day for their master.’
      • ‘And she actively fought for the most dispossessed of that class, those who labored in the nation's fields.’
      • ‘Forsaking the books, it was pick and shovel for a year of manual labouring for the young David.’
    2. 1.2archaic with object Till (the ground)
      ‘the land belonged to him who laboured it’
  • 2Have difficulty in doing something despite working hard.

    ‘United laboured against confident opponents’
    • ‘He was laden with a heavy old radio and was labouring to keep up.’
    • ‘I loved him so much, and it would kill me to see him grunting and struggling as he laboured to move himself from the bed to the chair.’
    • ‘There had been a failure specifically to identify favourable material, but that was attributed to the difficulties under which the applicant has been labouring by reason of having been detained.’
    • ‘The home side struggled to overcome Edinburgh, but despite labouring for long periods the grit of the Irish forwards eventually saw them through.’
    • ‘Brazil labored to another unconvincing victory at the World Cup on Sunday, qualifying for the second round by beating Australia 2-0 and substituting an ineffective Ronaldo for the second game in a row.’
    • ‘Life steadily worsened, and though a few maintained quick riches in the short-term, most people labored more and more just to maintain short-term existence.’
    strive, struggle, endeavour, work, try hard, make every effort, do one's best, do one's utmost, do all one can, give one's all, give it one's all, give something one's all, go all out, fight, push, be at pains, put oneself out, apply oneself, exert oneself
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1with adverbial of direction Move or proceed with difficulty.
      ‘they laboured up a steep, tortuous track’
      • ‘Our taxis, which had labored up the narrow, winding road, descended much more swiftly.’
      • ‘It laboured up the hills as we climbed to nearly 2000m.’
      • ‘She labored up to the stoop, red face partially hidden by brown paper bags.’
      • ‘In the terrible heat, the fugitives labored up a tomb-lined slope toward Nuceria.’
      • ‘There was a full moon, and stories of recent cougar sightings swirled through Nostdal's head as he labored up and down the hilly road.’
      • ‘After we'd eaten we walked back along the canal in the sunshine and laboured up the hill before collapsing in front of the TV.’
    2. 2.2 (of an engine) work noisily and with difficulty.
      ‘the wheels churned, the engine labouring’
      • ‘She turned on her radar detector and slid up to a hundred and five, riding easily, her huge engine hardly laboring as she raced through the night.’
      • ‘The engines labored to push the bulky ship off the side of the building and into the air.’
      • ‘He felt the engine laboring, gathering speed slowly, the breakdown lane narrowing rapidly ahead.’
    3. 2.3 (of a ship) roll or pitch heavily.
      ‘occasionally the labouring ship spat the caulking from some underwater seam’
      • ‘The waves were strong, The Heart of Isis laboured heavily and the men were tested sorely, but by nightfall they had cleared the island without finding safe harbor.’
      lurch, toss, toss about, plunge, roll, reel, sway, rock, flounder, keel, list, wallow
      View synonyms
  • 3(of a woman in childbirth) be in labour.

    ‘she laboured very well and comfortably because she was relaxed’

Phrases

  • a labour of Hercules

  • a labour of love

    • A task done for pleasure, not reward.

      ‘he spent eight years rebuilding the house—a labour of love’
      • ‘The garments on display in the North American clothing case (near the totem pole) were labours of love and skill.’
      • ‘Providing care to a partner or family member, while often a labor of love, requires the skill and grace to ensure your own mental and physical well-being.’
      • ‘Ian, a former factory worker, said: ‘It took me a while but it's a labour of love really.’’
      • ‘Since I usually get paid by the word (except for labours of love, of course, like this review), I'm all in favour of that.’
      • ‘Yes, some sites are probably close enough to labours of love, created by people who have genuine day jobs who don't appear to be too interested in branching out on their own.’
      • ‘It was a labour of love, and he liked to keep his mind busy.’
      • ‘But this is not all: there are many direct encouragements for our perseverance in these labours of love.’
      • ‘You're right, it was a labor of love.’
      • ‘These and the other films scheduled have all been labours of love.’
      • ‘They are labours of love with a strong sense of purpose.’
  • labour the point

    • Explain or discuss something at excessive length.

      • ‘In these books she laboured the point tenaciously that women were superior in all things.’
      • ‘It was simply that the play rather laboured the point at times and was, in truth, simply too long.’
      • ‘I made this choice because the charts labored the point and didn't add anything to the book's content.’
      • ‘In my own writings, I have always laboured the point that beer can be used in many different ways: as a marinade, in braising, sauces, batters, doughs, and so forth.’
      • ‘Without laboring the point too much, your duties as a responsible tourist continue after you have returned home.’
      • ‘It would be labouring the point, perhaps, to point out that most towns have at least one small gallery.’
      • ‘This labours the point, and I apologise for doing so, but none offer an alternative to our current position.’
      • ‘At the risk of laboring the point, we believe, high morale is the cornerstone of any successful organization.’
      • ‘If I am labouring the point it is for a reason.’
      • ‘The council labours the point that the benchmark return for a company is the ‘risk-free’ return shareholders could earn on their investment.’
      overemphasize, belabour, overstress, lay too much emphasis on, place too much emphasis on, overdo, strain, over-elaborate, overplay, attach too much importance to, attach too much weight to, make too much of, exaggerate, dwell on, harp on, harp on about, expound on, expand
      View synonyms

Phrasal Verbs

  • labour under

    • 1Carry (a very heavy load) with difficulty.

      ‘two servants appeared, labouring under the weight of a kitchen table’
    • 2Be misled by (a mistaken belief)

      ‘you've been labouring under a misapprehension’
      • ‘I was marginally shocked when they sat down beside me; I was still labouring under the belief that guys were way too cool to sit cross - legged, especially on the grass.’
      • ‘Chances are you've been laboring under the misguided belief that you're an artist.’
      • ‘We are labouring under the illusion that we are in control and free of constraints when in truth we are out of control and morally bankrupt.’
      • ‘I think they are laboring under the belief that the state has put up everything they've got to show, that Amber's the icing on the cake.’
      • ‘Here I am labouring under the misconception that progress regarding our treatment and understanding of others, and otherness, had been made.’
      • ‘Many individuals labor under the mistaken assumption that they already know a great deal about film, television, and the other mass media simply because they view and use them all the time.’
      • ‘I'm always open to listening to new artists, labouring under the belief that all artists were at some point new and that they had to be given their fair shake.’
      • ‘Today, many of us labor under the mistaken notion that natural wood is by its nature preferable to painted wood, no matter what.’
      • ‘He hoped they were laboring under that belief because there was something he had to get before he could leave town.’
      • ‘They appear to labour under several misapprehensions.’
      suffer from, be a victim of, be burdened by, be overburdened by, be disadvantaged by, be under
      View synonyms

Origin

Middle English: from Old French labour (noun), labourer (verb), both from Latin labor ‘toil, trouble’.

Pronunciation

labour

/ˈleɪbə/