One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A mechanism for raising, conveying, or distributing water.
2In plural The system of reservoirs, pipes, and machinery by which water is obtained, stored, purified, and supplied to an area or a town; a water pumping or purifying station.
3In plural figurative euphemism. The urinary system.
4A kind of mural painted in imitation of a tapestry in size or distemper. Now historical.
5Chiefly in plural Work concerned with hydraulic engineering, irrigation, drainage, etc. Now rare.
6A device or structure which produces an ornamental or spectacular display of water; an ornamental fountain or cascade. Also: a display of this type. Usually in plural Compare "firework" 3c. Now chiefly historical.
7Tears, weeping, especially when regarded as being forced, cynically manipulative, or overdramatic. In later use often in "to turn on the waterworks".
8In other figurative uses: †lava flow (obsolete rare); rain.
9In various contexts: a thing done or occurring in, on, or by means of water. Also as a mass noun: activity performed with or in water.
Late Middle English. From water + work.
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