Definition of travail in English:



  • 1[mass noun] Painful or laborious effort.

    ‘advice for those who wish to save great sorrow and travail’
    • ‘Today I'm just enormously grateful that such things exist and can be called upon in times of travail.’
    • ‘These included the publication of De Profundis, the issue of a twelve-volume edition of Wilde's collected works, and Ross's enormous travail for the benefaction of Wilde's orphaned sons.’
    • ‘The pathos of the Satrean autodidact resides in the nature of his ‘appeal’, the gaze for which he stages his behaviour, the symbolic Big Other to which he submits his uncomplaining travail.’
    • ‘And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.’
    • ‘Springsteen often follows a songwriting strategy that dates back to songs such as ‘Badlands’, with verses full of travail, and choruses that ring with optimism.’
    hard work, menial work, donkey work, toil, toiling, labour, hard labour, sweated labour, chores, plodding
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Labour pains.
      ‘a woman in travail’
      • ‘Anesthetics and antiseptics have manacled the demon pain, and the curse of travail has been lifted from the soul of women.’
      • ‘Our hands wax feeble: anguish hath taken hold of us, and pain, as of a woman in travail.’
      • ‘A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow.’


[NO OBJECT]literary
  • 1 Engage in painful or laborious effort.

    ‘creation may travail in pain but it cannot escape its destiny’
    • ‘Paul knew he had to labour like a woman weary after hours of labour pains to effect new life in people: ‘I travail again in birth.’’
    1. 1.1(of a woman) be in labour.
      • ‘And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour.’


Middle English: via Old French from medieval Latin trepalium instrument of torture, from Latin tres three + palus stake.