Definition of back-breaking in US English:


(also backbreaking)


  • attributive (especially of manual labor) physically demanding.

    ‘a day's back-breaking work’
    • ‘Building roads from the seashore up to five thousand feet on the slopes of Mauna Loa demanded back-breaking labor.’
    • ‘I told him about the back-breaking work of doing it all ourselves, and how Jon had demolished the kitchen himself and then wired the whole room for electricity.’
    • ‘In the searing hot sun, the road-gang convicts endure back-breaking physical labor - chopping dusty weeds by the side of the highway.’
    • ‘These are the least desirable jobs because they require back-breaking labor, are outdoors, require exposure to pesticides, and pay the lowest wages.’
    • ‘Those capable of working were not sent to the gas chambers, but put to back-breaking labour under horrific conditions.’
    • ‘Now, many find themselves worn out after decades of back-breaking physical work, and they are unable to find work.’
    • ‘While the methods may be back-breaking and labor-intensive, the payoff, winemakers say, is a purer, better quality wine and a product that's healthier.’
    • ‘Each spear is harvested by hand, and most cans are hand-packed, demanding countless hours of back-breaking field and factory labor - the cheaper the better.’
    • ‘There is no sense in wasting all your energy on back-breaking physical or mental labor.’
    • ‘This took another 13 years of back-breaking work.’
    • ‘The migrants workers are paid next to nothing to work picking strawberries, which is back-breaking work for long hours, and often they have no homes to go to when work is over.’
    • ‘In poverty-stricken neighbourhoods of the city, the vast majority of children must work, often doing back-breaking manual labour for a few pounds a day.’
    • ‘For them, it is difficult to get sentimental about the back-breaking labour and the pitiful annual income.’
    • ‘Millions of children, mostly girls, are pulled out of school to look after sick relatives, do back-breaking paid work and run households.’
    • ‘Many women continued to work long, exhausting hours as wage labourers for miserly rates of pay, while as housewives their constant companions were poverty and back-breaking drudgery.’
    • ‘The unemployed were signed up to do back-breaking manual work for low pay.’
    • ‘Monday meant a return to the fields and back-breaking labour.’
    • ‘Other such jobs follow, short-lived, often back-breaking, alternating with drifting poverty-stricken in the city, sleeping in alleys and telephone booths.’
    • ‘A recent union survey of shearers found 70 per cent would not encourage their friends, family or children to become shearers, saying the back-breaking work was no longer worth it.’
    • ‘The broader point is, in large reconstruction projects, back-breaking labor is often and most often - most often done by immigrants at low wages who are willing to do these jobs that the nation needs to be done.’
    gruelling, arduous, strenuous, onerous, punishing, murderous, crushing, herculean, demanding, exacting, taxing, formidable, exhausting, draining, laborious, burdensome, tough, stiff, uphill, heavy
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