Definition of workhouse in English:



  • 1historical (in the UK) a public institution in which the destitute of a parish received board and lodging in return for work.

    • ‘The grants are being offered for work on everything from thatched cottages to stately homes and castles, large and small country houses, town houses, churches, workhouses and public buildings, including an old post office.’
    • ‘Overnight accommodation varied, from the the casual wards of local workhouses to more friendly lodgings and municipally-arranged feasts.’
    • ‘But at the time the only alleviation remained the institution of workhouses, although philanthropists were constructing almshouses, cheap housing for the poor.’
    • ‘Unlike Boston, which had the financial resources to build more than one public institution for the poor, many towns in New England only built one institution, either a workhouse or an almshouse.’
    • ‘The overarching vision of a totally deterrent New Poor Law where relief would only be administered in the workhouse clashed with local parish budgets and the reality of the family wage economy.’
  • 2US A prison in which petty offenders are expected to work.

    • ‘No matter how we felt about the workhouse the inmates who had been there quite awhile, like myself, had learnt not to even mention running away.’
    • ‘Individual supervisors of public works or of workhouses might be named, but there was no global critique of political institutions.’
    • ‘There were 400 there, including 46 inmates at the workhouse.’