to work hard, especially physically
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.
Origin and usage
The verb labor was first used at the end of the 14th century, about 90 years after the noun. Both come from the Latin ‘labor’ and French ‘labure’ meaning ‘work’.
Yesterday was Labor Day, a public holiday in the U.S. to honor* working people. Labor Day always falls on the first Monday in September and is celebrated on the same day in Canada. The holiday grew out of the calls of the trade union (or labor) movement for the labor of ordinary working people to be honored, and in 1887 Oregon became the first state to make it an official public holiday. It was declared an official federal holiday in 1894. In the U.S. Labor Day is regarded as marking the end of summer and the start of fall activities such as the return to school and the resumption of winter sports. Some people regard Labor Day as the last day on which it is acceptable to wear white, or light summer fabrics, but most regard strictures such as these as outdated.
* This post has been written using American rather than British spelling. Macmillan Dictionary is available in both American and British versions, and you can choose which to use by clicking the link found at the bottom of most entries.
“He who labors diligently need never despair; for all things are accomplished by diligence and labor.”
“It is essential that there should be organization of labor. This is an era of organization. Capital organizes and therefore labor must organize.”
toil, graft, slog
Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.
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