Definition of toil in English:



  • 1 Work extremely hard or incessantly:

    ‘we toiled away’
    [with infinitive] ‘Richard toiled to build his editorial team’
    • ‘Even just a century ago, U.S. industrial workers toiled ten hours a day, six days a week and earned an average of $375 a year.’
    • ‘Those of us who toil every day at the Headquarters of the United Nations have become a little exasperated at seeing our institutional obituaries in the press.’
    • ‘Set amid terraced paddy fields where farmers in bamboo hats still till and toil much as they have done for centuries, Ubud has beautiful temples, traditional markets and a surprising number of upmarket shops.’
    • ‘Her working hours increase, her pay is cut, and the conditions under which she must toil become increasingly arduous.’
    • ‘They toil long hours in appalling conditions in machine shops and restaurants.’
    • ‘Of a kind and generous disposition he toiled hard all his life for the good of his family.’
    • ‘After all, it's a complete waste to struggle and toil in order to accumulate possessions that you will have no use for in death.’
    • ‘Club members had toiled long and hard to build these rooms and the photographers were showing no respect.’
    • ‘Something happened today that will really affect Christmas for New Zealanders who are out there, working hard and toiling away: interest rates went up.’
    • ‘Workers had toiled to move dirt to fill in the deeper puddles and the match was able to proceed with two days of fast shooting in excellent weather.’
    • ‘Hundreds eke out a living, toiling hard throughout the night.’
    • ‘Geraldine's sixth class pupils were certainly as busy as Santa's little helpers as they toiled packing shoeboxes full of toys and other items.’
    • ‘They are toiling away, working hard, and looking for the green light from the Minister of Finance.’
    • ‘There is little point in having workers toil long and hard to sweep the debris into neat piles, which are then left to withstand the ravages of wind, rain and speeding wheels.’
    • ‘This was not because European workers toiled less intensively.’
    • ‘At a distance, the cranes, the earthmovers, the construction workers toiled hard and dug deep.’
    • ‘He had toiled hard to earn it and it would long be his cherished possession.’
    • ‘He thinks about this a moment and then issues a bleak verdict on the drug-policing system in which he's toiled for the past 25 years.’
    • ‘Some of the party workers who had been toiling all day, and were still expecting a victory, retired to a nearby pub to enjoy themselves.’
    • ‘This is a straightforward, unpretentious musical comedy about five cleaning women who toil night after night in a Calgary office building.’
    work hard, labour, work one's fingers to the bone, work like a trojan, work like a dog, work day and night, exert oneself, keep at it, keep one's nose to the grindstone, grind away, slave away, grub away, plough away, plod away
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    1. 1.1[with adverbial of direction] Move slowly and with difficulty:
      ‘she began to toil up the cliff path’
      • ‘I gave my pony to a native and began to toil up the hillside with the infantry.’
      • ‘The expedition continued to toil north, and continued to leak men, as deserters wilier than Collins slipped away night after night.’
      • ‘Having done some cycling in England as a teenager, I have admired the amateur cyclists I've seen toiling up those climbs and can appreciate the difficulty of the last segment of stage eight.’
      • ‘I strap everything to my pack, and toil my way up the last three miles in my soggy snowboard boots.’
      struggle, move with difficulty, labour, trudge, tramp, traipse, slog, plod, trek, footslog, sweat, drag oneself, push
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  • [mass noun] Exhausting physical labour:

    ‘a life of toil’
    • ‘All that effort, toil and rhetoric is finished and now winners and losers have to face the results.’
    • ‘But local firms provided plants and materials, and after a fortnight's toil the job was done.’
    • ‘For the most part, food on the journey would be simple: something that stored well and needed little preparation, and yet was hearty enough to give the energy needed for hard physical toil.’
    • ‘Despite their faintness, Goya's lines retain everywhere a sense of hard physical toil.’
    • ‘Now when I talk about effort here I don't mean some awful dreary toil.’
    • ‘I have discovered that when it comes to physical toil, some work placement students act like consultants.’
    • ‘Nevertheless, the joy of knowing that those bookshelves were the result of your own toil and labour can be beyond measure, even if they are a bit wonky.’
    • ‘Over the summer months of toil and voluntary effort it will yet again become apparent who has earned the right to have their say.’
    • ‘He began to build levees to stem the flooding but after nine years of exhausting toil, the position worsened everywhere.’
    • ‘Bill was a man who worked hard all his life without becoming a slave to toil.’
    • ‘It wasn't the hours of toil, sweat and petrol clearing the footpath which concerned me, but the wasted wheat.’
    • ‘Unless we are to believe naively that leisure and luxury crystallize out of thin air, we must recognize and acknowledge that the comforts of globalization are reaped from the labour and toil of others.’
    • ‘The dirt and grime of industrial toil has been largely replaced by white-collar jobs.’
    • ‘Churchill responded by exhorting them to fight on the beaches and promised them only blood, tears, toil and sweat.’
    • ‘After six and a half years of toil and sweat, I was finally done!’
    • ‘All his life Nelson was profoundly aware of the drudgery of toil, whether on the furrow or the lower deck, and humanely responsive to the concerns of the least privileged.’
    • ‘Days are drenched in the strong scent of cigarette smoke, all-purpose soap, cow manure, eucalyptus leaf, espresso coffee, and the bouquet of our toil and sweat.’
    • ‘Curving stone walls crisscrossed the landscapes, testifying to centuries of toil and sweat by inhabitants, creating soft, green pastures for livestock.’
    • ‘But any music fan should enjoy seeing the blood, sweat and toil that goes into making the end product we all buy.’
    • ‘There is no hint of self-consciousness from this writing, no whiff of labour or toil.’
    hard work, toiling, labour, slaving, struggle, effort, exertion, application, Industry, grind, slog, blood, sweat, and tears, drudgery
    sweat, elbow grease
    travail, moil
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Middle English (in the senses ‘contend verbally’ and ‘strife’): from Anglo-Norman French toiler strive, dispute, toil confusion, from Latin tudiculare stir about, from tudicula machine for crushing olives, related to tundere crush.