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Alternative forms[edit]


  • enPR: trə-vālʹ, trăvʹāl', IPA(key): /tɹəˈveɪl/, /ˈtɹævˌeɪl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪl

Etymology 1[edit]

PIE word
Possible appearance of a Tripalium

From Middle English travail, from Old French travail (suffering, torment), deverbal of travailler, from Vulgar Latin *tripāliāre, from Late Latin tripālium, from Latin tripālis (held up by three stakes) from Proto-Italic *trēs + *pākslos from Proto-Indo-European *peh₂ǵ-. Doublet of travel.


travail (plural travails or travaux)

  1. (literary) Arduous or painful exertion; excessive labor, suffering, hardship. [from 13th c.]
    • 1582 – 1610, Douay Rheims Bible, Book of Ecclesiasticus (Wisdom of Sirach) XL.1–11:
      Great trauail is created to al men, and an heauie yoke vpon the children of Adam, from the day of their comming forth of their mothers wombe, vntil the day of their burying, into the mother of al. []
    • 1597, Richard Hooker, Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie, Book V, §21:
      But as every thing of price, so this doth require travail.
    • 1603, Michel de Montaigne, chapter 20, in John Florio, transl., The Essayes [], book II, London: [] Val[entine] Simmes for Edward Blount [], →OCLC:
      Travell and pleasure, most unlike in nature, are notwithstanding followed together by a kind of I wot not what natural conjunction [].
    • 1936, Djuna Barnes, Nightwood, Faber & Faber, published 2007, page 38:
      He had thought of making a destiny for himself, through laborious and untiring travail.
    • 2005, Tony Judt, “Culture Wars”, in Postwar: A history of Europe since 1945, London: Vintage Books, published 2010, →ISBN:
      And the British mandarin Left, like their contemporaries in the Foreign Office, had little time for the travails of the small countries between Germany and Russia, whom they had always regarded as something of a nuisance.
    • 2022 March 31, Alexis Soloski, “Why the Sudden Urge to Reconsider Famous Women?”, in The New York Times[1], →ISSN:
      In the most egregious examples, these stories harness a particular woman’s travails without acknowledging the systems and forces that contributed to her treatment and how these systems persist in our own time.
  2. Specifically, the labor of childbirth. [from 13th c.]
  3. (obsolete, countable) An act of working; labor (US), labour (British). [14th–18th c.]
  4. (obsolete) The eclipse of a celestial object. [17th c.]
  5. Obsolete form of travel.
  6. Alternative form of travois (a kind of sled)
Related terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English travailen, from Old French travaillier, from the noun (see above). Displaced native Middle English swinken (to work) (from Old English swincan (to labour, to toil, to work at)).


travail (third-person singular simple present travails, present participle travailing, simple past and past participle travailed)

  1. To toil.
  2. To go through the labor of childbirth.
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Further reading[edit]



Inherited from Middle French travail, from Old French travail, deverbal of travailler.

The plural derives from Old French travauz, early travailz, with vocalization of the lateral before a consonant (/tʁavo/ < /tɾaˈvau̯s/ < /tɾaˈvaʎts/).



travail m (plural travaux or travails)

  1. work; labor
    un travail bien faitwork done well, a job well done
    On se met au travail.Let's get to work.
    Remettez-vous au travail.Do get to work.
    Il se plonge dans le travail.He dives into work.
    Pour la majorité des femmes, le travail commence par des contractions utérine.For most women, labor begins with uterine contractions.
  2. job
  3. workplace

Usage notes[edit]

  • The less common plural travails is usually only used for the sense of "job."


Derived terms[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Middle French[edit]


From Old French travail.


travail m (plural travails)

  1. suffering; pain


  • French: travail


  • Godefroy, Frédéric, Dictionnaire de l’ancienne langue française et de tous ses dialectes du IXe au XVe siècle (1881) (travail, supplement)

Old French[edit]


Deverbal from travailler.


travail m (oblique plural travauz or travailz, nominative singular travauz or travailz, nominative plural travail)

  1. suffering, torment