Meaning of labour in English:


Pronunciation /ˈleɪbə/

See synonyms for labour


(US labor)
mass noun
  • 1Work, especially physical work.

    ‘the price of repairs includes labour, parts, and VAT’
    • ‘manual labour’
    • ‘The majority of migrant workers earn their living in the city by doing manual labour.’
    • ‘The men go off and look for casual labour during the day while women and children spend the day looking for shade.’
    • ‘These subjects were agricultural workers with varying periods of manual labour in the field.’
    • ‘Most are low-end workers doing street-cleaning or other manual labor.’
    • ‘According to him, many unwaged Russians survive on handouts from friends and relatives, subsistence agriculture, casual labour, petty trading or petty crime.’
    • ‘Since the start of the industrial revolution people have been paid a pittance for manual labor.’
    • ‘Next time, though, I'll be employing my teenage cousins to do the manual labour and keeping my hands out of the sink.’
    task, job, chore, undertaking, mission, commission, assignment
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Workers, especially manual workers, considered collectively.
      ‘non-union casual labour’
      • ‘Today there is a growing acceptance of illegal casual labour and a strong demand for it.’
      • ‘In this society, his job was one of the few, in which people exactly performed manual labor.’
      • ‘It also aims to replace a number of full-time workers with casual and part-time labour.’
      • ‘Using casual labour has become a key means by which many employers seek to evade established standards.’
      • ‘I also defend our right to civil protest when city projects employ less qualified nonunion labor.’
      • ‘The trade unions have made repeated warnings to Railtrack about the use of casual labour on the lines but to no avail.’
      • ‘If the South was exceptional, it was not in worker resistance to organized labor, but employer resistance.’
      • ‘He said there would be real implications for his company when he employed casual or part-time labour, and brought staff in and out.’
      • ‘The tile company had callously sacked 29 regular workers and replaced them with casual labour supplied by Skilled.’
      • ‘Wage-labour was essentially casual labour, as employed at harvest time.’
      • ‘These people, gangmasters, have been around for years, bringing casual labour into the fields and exploiting a lot of farm workers for some time.’
      • ‘Excluding temporary manufacturing labor, 785,000 factory workers have lost their jobs over the past 11 months.’
      • ‘Unions say it puts the brakes on a 20-year trend towards casual labour, but employer groups are calling it a disappointing and costly precedent.’
      • ‘The Tories were keen to get rid of the National Dock Labour Scheme, which protected dockers from casual labour.’
      • ‘The company is planning to sell or lease the mine and operate it using casual labour and new technology.’
      • ‘Coming to the London docks he was shocked at the misery and poverty of casual labour and organized a docker's union.’
      • ‘Those who were less keen to compete for migrants could resort to convicts as casual labour.’
      • ‘Their work will be contracted out to private companies that employ largely nonunion low-paid labor.’
      • ‘As a result, the place is being built with non-union labor.’
      • ‘Some institutions contract the work out to casual labour with little continuity and stability for the student.’
      workers, employees, workmen, workforce, staff, working people, blue-collar workers, hands, labourers, labour force, hired hands, proletariat, wage-earners, manpower, human resources, personnel
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2Workers considered as a social class or political force.
      as modifier ‘the labour movement’
      • ‘Fourth, the working class and labour movement, repressed, shackled, lacking independence, was no alternative.’
      • ‘Steelworkers Canadian director Ken Neumann said the merger creates a new force in the Canadian labour movement, as well as in federal and provincial politics.’
      • ‘But turning labour into a political force to be reckoned with in Alberta is a tall order, which McGowan clearly outlined in his paper.’
      • ‘The labor movement's political clout is waning with most red states having right to work laws that effectively ban unions.’
      • ‘These forces have also weakened labor movements in many other industrial countries.’
      • ‘From here we are treated to an account of Watson's rise through the political labour movement.’
      • ‘For Trotsky, what determined his attitude to all tendencies within the Russian social democratic labor movement was their perspective, their program.’
      • ‘That same impulse brought the entire Canadian labor movement out in force.’
      • ‘The working class and the labour movement are not like they were in the 1970s.’
      • ‘For the past 25 years he has been documenting the immigrant experience in Canada, working class culture and the labour movement.’
      • ‘He looks to struggles independent of political parties, the official labour movement, or any other organised forces.’
      • ‘The answer came when one delegate rose to address the notion of political action by the labour movement.’
      • ‘The result is that since the mid-1980s the organized labour movement was no longer a major social and political factor.’
      • ‘Without an understanding of the role of Stalinism and Social Democracy, the labour movement will not be able to turn once again to a socialist perspective.’
      • ‘There is no section of the official labor movement that upholds the most elementary principles of working class solidarity.’
      • ‘Your situation highlights the tragedy of the American labor movement and the dilemma facing the working class today.’
      • ‘These developments have also resulted in a political and intellectual crisis within the labour movement.’
      • ‘The death of Glen Branagh is a warning to the labour movement and the working class that bloody sectarian conflict is not a thing of the past in Northern Ireland.’
      • ‘Over time Walesa became active in the underground labour movement and witnessed the repression of workers' protests in the 1970s.’
      • ‘These objective changes in the world economy have undermined the post-war framework of labour protection and social measures.’
    3. 1.3as modifier A government department concerned with a nation's workforce.
      ‘the Labour Secretary’
      • ‘This was announced at the end of last week by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.’
  • 2

    (also Labour)
    treated as singular or plural The Labour Party.

    as modifier ‘the Labour leader’
    • ‘They seem to think that the way to beat Labour is to be more Leftist than Labour!’
    • ‘South Swindon has a new Member of Parliament but the seat is still held by Labour.’
    • ‘Teresa Page was a hard-working councillor and Labour will be sad to see her go.’
    • ‘Downing Street has the option of going with Prescott and Labour, or with Cameron and the Tories.’
    • ‘At 4.15 am on Friday, Tony Blair became the first man ever to lead Labour to a third term.’
    • ‘It is not the first time Tory James Gray and Labour's Tony Banks have clashed.’
    • ‘Pallet maker Richard Mulhall took the Illingworth seat from Labour's Zoe Marston.’
    • ‘Okay, the Tories are gaining big from Labour and the Lib Dems in the South.’
    • ‘Her victory means Labour now has 37 seats on Bradford Council, one more than the Tories.’
    • ‘Chairman of the Labour Group, Coun Norma Lincoln, said Labour would fight back.’
    • ‘But Labor's Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate, Chris Evans, questions that.’
    • ‘The Government is using Labor's rules, after all, they say.’
    • ‘Labor's Trade Spokesman Stephen Conroy has denied that Labor has caved in.’
    • ‘I was joined a short time ago by Labor's Foreign Affairs Spokesman, Kevin Rudd.’
    • ‘In the Senate, Labor's John Faulkner asked for an explanation.’
    • ‘Concisely, here is the problem: Labor is the party of the Left.’
    • ‘Assuming all the above, and that Labor regains Cunningham, the Parliament would look like this.’
    • ‘Pollster Sol Lebovic from Newspoll, says this is a reality check for Labor.’
    • ‘Julie Flynn, the Chief Executive of Free TV Australia says Labor's ban is simplistic and won't work.’
    • ‘At the moment in the 25 seat House of Assembly, Labor have 14, the Liberals seven and the Greens four.’
  • 3The process of childbirth from the start of uterine contractions to delivery.

    ‘a woman in labour’
    • ‘They also received 300 mg every three hours while in labor until delivery.’
    • ‘Both Lamaze and Bradley encourage partner participation in labor and delivery.’
    • ‘The drug prostaglandin is injected into the womb and this causes it to contract strongly as in labour.’
    • ‘It has long been the practice to allow family members to be present in labor and delivery.’
    • ‘She tells us tales of ambulances collecting women in labour to take them to the hospital delivery suites, only to be held up at a checkpoint where the women give birth.’
    • ‘Red raspberry leaves are used to enhance uterine contractions once labor is initiated.’
    • ‘Low dose mobile epidurals are generally more attractive to women in labour than traditional epidural techniques.’
    • ‘Measles in pregnancy can cause miscarriage, premature labour or a baby with low birth weight.’
    • ‘The challenge for obstetricians is to make sure that options for safe delivery are not limited for women who experience complications in labour.’
    • ‘Both women spent four hours in labour and both gave birth to baby daughters.’
    • ‘The pregnancy went smoothly and Mrs Filer gave birth after being in labour for five hours.’
    • ‘It says that cerebral palsy is almost never caused by fetal distress in labor.’
    • ‘An HIV specialist should be contacted immediately if the diagnosis is made in labour.’
    • ‘I was in labour for twenty-two hours with Evan Michael's brother.’
    • ‘Kory's mom has been in labor for an hour and a half.’
    • ‘Catherine suffered in labor for many hours, and finally the doctors had to perform a Caesarean section.’
    • ‘They can also improve your posture and strengthen your abdominal muscles for labor and delivery.’
    • ‘By the time Michael had called them, Jamie had already been in labor four hours.’
    • ‘Such rigorous application of the guidelines would, however, have resulted in antibiotics being given to 16% of all women in labour.’
    • ‘Fortunately, the body provides several clues that the onset of labor is approaching.’
    childbirth, birth, birthing, delivery, nativity
    View synonyms
  • 4 rare A group of moles.

    ‘ a labour of moles toils with the Earth’
    • ‘The labor of moles dig dexterously underground.’
    • ‘The labour of moles has caused some messy practical problems for the grass cutters.’


(US labor)
[no object]
  • 1Work hard; make great effort.

    ‘they laboured from dawn to dusk’
    • ‘she was patiently labouring over her sketchbooks’
    • ‘At 51, she breathes with real difficulty, wheezing and labouring to draw breath as we talk.’
    • ‘And like Mr Sherry, Mr Hillier has laboured for many years and has likewise produced three heavy volumes, the last of which is about to see the light of day in the bookshops.’
    • ‘In this atmosphere, the House of Representatives has labored hard.’
    • ‘She seemed not to care that the rest of the class was labouring effortlessly on their reports.’
    • ‘For years I had labored over a manual that would include all of this.’
    • ‘Parts and maintenance manuals were in short supply as the ground crews labored to prepare as many P - 39s for combat as possible.’
    • ‘David Evans from Wales, the lanky but smooth attacker who has been quietly laboring to bring his game back to the world class form he briefly displayed four years ago, took a small step on that road last night.’
    • ‘Teachers Simon Gibson and Bob Granger have spent every spare moment between classes for the past few weeks labouring to produce a drinking cup holder for Bradley who has severely limited mobility.’
    • ‘But those very wonders are also symbols of oppressive and overbearing states that could coerce hundreds of thousands to spend their lives laboring on projects erected to enhance the ruling class.’
    • ‘Suppose that one worker labors for five consecutive years to produce one such engine.’
    • ‘Each labored many years as an attorney before moving to the front office.’
    • ‘This modification was typical of the hard-working ground crews who would labor day and night to find solutions for the problems that came up in this new theater of war.’
    • ‘Because of the current shifts and perhaps unpredictable forces in today's labour market, these demands may seem unrealistic.’
    work, work hard, toil, slave, slave away, grub away, plod away, grind away, sweat away, struggle, strive, exert oneself, overwork, work one's fingers to the bone, work like a dog, work like a slave, work like a Trojan, keep one's nose to the grindstone
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Work at an unskilled manual occupation.
      ‘he was eking out an existence by labouring’
      • ‘And she actively fought for the most dispossessed of that class, those who labored in the nation's fields.’
      • ‘On Saturday, John Paul slept in his old bed, visited his old street and drove by the quarry, no longer used, where he laboured during the Nazi occupation of Poland.’
      • ‘Forsaking the books, it was pick and shovel for a year of manual labouring for the young David.’
      • ‘They also repaired, refitted, and caulked ships in the harbor, laboring for a $1.00 a day for their master.’
    2. 1.2 archaic with object Till (the ground)
      • ‘the land belonged to him who laboured it’
  • 2Have difficulty in doing something despite working hard.

    ‘United laboured against confident opponents’
    • ‘The home side struggled to overcome Edinburgh, but despite labouring for long periods the grit of the Irish forwards eventually saw them through.’
    • ‘He was laden with a heavy old radio and was labouring to keep up.’
    • ‘There had been a failure specifically to identify favourable material, but that was attributed to the difficulties under which the applicant has been labouring by reason of having been detained.’
    • ‘Brazil labored to another unconvincing victory at the World Cup on Sunday, qualifying for the second round by beating Australia 2-0 and substituting an ineffective Ronaldo for the second game in a row.’
    • ‘Life steadily worsened, and though a few maintained quick riches in the short-term, most people labored more and more just to maintain short-term existence.’
    • ‘I loved him so much, and it would kill me to see him grunting and struggling as he laboured to move himself from the bed to the chair.’
    strive, struggle, endeavour, work, try hard, make every effort, do one's best, do one's utmost, do all one can, give one's all, give it one's all, give something one's all, go all out, fight, push, be at pains, put oneself out, apply oneself, exert oneself
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1with adverbial of direction Move or proceed with difficulty.
      ‘they laboured up a steep, tortuous track’
      • ‘Our taxis, which had labored up the narrow, winding road, descended much more swiftly.’
      • ‘She labored up to the stoop, red face partially hidden by brown paper bags.’
      • ‘In the terrible heat, the fugitives labored up a tomb-lined slope toward Nuceria.’
      • ‘After we'd eaten we walked back along the canal in the sunshine and laboured up the hill before collapsing in front of the TV.’
      • ‘There was a full moon, and stories of recent cougar sightings swirled through Nostdal's head as he labored up and down the hilly road.’
      • ‘It laboured up the hills as we climbed to nearly 2000m.’
    2. 2.2(of an engine) work noisily and with difficulty.
      ‘the wheels churned, the engine labouring’
      • ‘He felt the engine laboring, gathering speed slowly, the breakdown lane narrowing rapidly ahead.’
      • ‘She turned on her radar detector and slid up to a hundred and five, riding easily, her huge engine hardly laboring as she raced through the night.’
      • ‘The engines labored to push the bulky ship off the side of the building and into the air.’
    3. 2.3(of a ship) roll or pitch heavily.
      ‘the seas ran high, and the ship laboured hard’
      • ‘The waves were strong, The Heart of Isis laboured heavily and the men were tested sorely, but by nightfall they had cleared the island without finding safe harbor.’
      lurch, toss, toss about, plunge, roll, reel, sway, rock, flounder, keel, list, wallow, labour
      View synonyms
  • 3(of a woman in childbirth) be in labour.

    • ‘she laboured very well and comfortably because she was relaxed’


    labour of Hercules
    • 1Each of the twelve very difficult tasks imposed on the Greek mythological hero Hercules (or Heracles).

      1. 1.1A very difficult task.
        • ‘they face a labour of Hercules to clear the weeds’
    labour of love
    • A task done for pleasure, not reward.

      ‘he spent eight years rebuilding the house—a labour of love’
      • ‘You're right, it was a labor of love.’
      • ‘These and the other films scheduled have all been labours of love.’
      • ‘Since I usually get paid by the word (except for labours of love, of course, like this review), I'm all in favour of that.’
      • ‘Providing care to a partner or family member, while often a labor of love, requires the skill and grace to ensure your own mental and physical well-being.’
      • ‘Yes, some sites are probably close enough to labours of love, created by people who have genuine day jobs who don't appear to be too interested in branching out on their own.’
      • ‘It was a labour of love, and he liked to keep his mind busy.’
      • ‘The garments on display in the North American clothing case (near the totem pole) were labours of love and skill.’
      • ‘They are labours of love with a strong sense of purpose.’
      • ‘But this is not all: there are many direct encouragements for our perseverance in these labours of love.’
      • ‘Ian, a former factory worker, said: ‘It took me a while but it's a labour of love really.’’
    labour the point
    • Explain or discuss something at excessive length.

      ‘The council labours the point that the benchmark return for a company is the ‘risk-free’ return shareholders could earn on their investment.’
      • ‘In my own writings, I have always laboured the point that beer can be used in many different ways: as a marinade, in braising, sauces, batters, doughs, and so forth.’
      • ‘If I am labouring the point it is for a reason.’
      • ‘Without laboring the point too much, your duties as a responsible tourist continue after you have returned home.’
      • ‘At the risk of laboring the point, we believe, high morale is the cornerstone of any successful organization.’
      • ‘This labours the point, and I apologise for doing so, but none offer an alternative to our current position.’
      • ‘In these books she laboured the point tenaciously that women were superior in all things.’
      • ‘It would be labouring the point, perhaps, to point out that most towns have at least one small gallery.’
      • ‘I made this choice because the charts labored the point and didn't add anything to the book's content.’
      • ‘It was simply that the play rather laboured the point at times and was, in truth, simply too long.’

Phrasal Verbs

    labour under
    • 1labour under somethingCarry a very heavy load with difficulty.

      • ‘two servants appeared, labouring under the weight of a kitchen table’
    • 2labour under somethingBe misled by a mistaken belief.

      ‘you've been labouring under a misapprehension’
      • ‘I'm always open to listening to new artists, labouring under the belief that all artists were at some point new and that they had to be given their fair shake.’
      • ‘I think they are laboring under the belief that the state has put up everything they've got to show, that Amber's the icing on the cake.’
      • ‘I was marginally shocked when they sat down beside me; I was still labouring under the belief that guys were way too cool to sit cross - legged, especially on the grass.’
      • ‘He hoped they were laboring under that belief because there was something he had to get before he could leave town.’
      • ‘Chances are you've been laboring under the misguided belief that you're an artist.’
      • ‘Many individuals labor under the mistaken assumption that they already know a great deal about film, television, and the other mass media simply because they view and use them all the time.’
      • ‘Today, many of us labor under the mistaken notion that natural wood is by its nature preferable to painted wood, no matter what.’
      • ‘They appear to labour under several misapprehensions.’
      • ‘We are labouring under the illusion that we are in control and free of constraints when in truth we are out of control and morally bankrupt.’
      • ‘Here I am labouring under the misconception that progress regarding our treatment and understanding of others, and otherness, had been made.’


Middle English from Old French labour (noun), labourer (verb), both from Latin labor ‘toil, trouble’.