work out

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See also: workout



  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˌwəːk ˈaʊt/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˌwɚk ˈaʊt/
  • (file)


work out (third-person singular simple present works out, present participle working out, simple past and past participle worked out)

  1. (transitive) To calculate.
    Can you work out 250 × 12 in your head for me?
    Can you work out how to get to the university by car?
    • 2022 January 12, Sir Michael Holden, “Reform of the workforce or death by a thousand cuts?”, in RAIL, number 948, page 22:
      You don't have to be Einstein to work out that this level of government subsidy is unsustainable.
  2. (transitive) To make sense of.
    Synonym: figure out
    I can't work these instructions out.
  3. (transitive) To develop or devise in detail; to elaborate.
    to work out a plan
  4. (transitive) To smooth or perfect.
    This is a beta version; we're still working out the kinks.
  5. (intransitive) To conclude with the correct solution.
    These figures just don't work out.
  6. (intransitive) To succeed; to result in a satisfactory situation.
    Are you still seeing John? – No, it didn't work out.
    • 1962 August, G. Freeman Allen, “Traffic control on the Great Northern Line”, in Modern Railways, page 131:
      As everyone knows, almost all booked passenger and freight trains are diagrammed into rosters for engines and men, and in an operating Utopia everything would work out daily according to plan.
  7. (intransitive) To exercise, especially by lifting weights.
    John won't be here for a while because he's working out.
    Wow, you're looking good! Do you work out?
  8. (transitive) To strengthen a part one’s body by exercise.
    To work out your core
  9. (intransitive, US) To earn a wage working away from one's farm.
    • 1918, Willa Cather, chapter 5, in My Ántonia[1], Boston: Houghton Mifflin, page 38:
      The two Russians made good farmhands, and in summer they worked out together.
    • 1939, John Steinbeck, chapter 13, in The Grapes of Wrath[2], New York: Viking, published 1958, page 201:
      [] with them good wages, maybe a fella can get hisself a little piece a land an’ work out for extra cash.
  10. (transitive) To bring about or cause to happen by work or effort.
  11. (transitive, intransitive) Used other than figuratively or idiomatically: see work,‎ out.
    Using some tweezers, he worked the bee sting out of his hand.
    He works out of a small office shared with three others.
  12. (mining) To remove all the mineral that can be profitably exploited.
    The gravel pit had been worked out.
    A worked-out chalk pit or quarry


  • 1971, Carol King, “So Far Away”, Tapestry, Ode Records
    If I could only work this life out my way / I’d rather spend it bein' close to you.
  • 2009, Reif Larsen, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, Penguin Books, page 41:
    "I have some questions I need to work out. Big questions."

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