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[truh-veyl, trav-eyl] /trəˈveɪl, ˈtræv eɪl/
painfully difficult or burdensome work; toil.
pain, anguish or suffering resulting from mental or physical hardship.
the pain of childbirth.
verb (used without object)
to suffer the pangs of childbirth; be in labor.
to toil or exert oneself.
Origin of travail
1200-50; (v.) Middle English travaillen < Old French travaillier to torment < Vulgar Latin *trepaliāre to torture, derivative of Late Latin trepālium torture chamber, literally, instrument of torture made with three stakes (see tri-, pale2); (noun) Middle English < Old French: suffering, derivative of travailler
1. labor, moil. 2. torment, agony. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for travail
Historical Examples
  • "I'll do nothing of the sort," said travail, starting to back away.

    Made in Tanganyika Carl Richard Jacobi
  • Come unto Me all ye that travail and are heavy laden and I will refresh you.

    "Unto Caesar" Baroness Emmuska Orczy
  • I take the siller to feed the false wants of the waster, that should help the honorable man in his travail.

    Merkland Mrs. Oliphant
  • Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.

    "Unto Caesar" Baroness Emmuska Orczy
  • I travail in pain for him, My creatures travail and wait; His couriers come by squadrons, He comes not to the gate.

    May-Day Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • A fool will travail in pain with a word, as a woman in labour with a child.

  • My poor brethren, sore indeed has been your travail, and your cry of pain pierces the centuries.

    Ghetto Tragedies Israel Zangwill
  • And I must share His travail if I would share in the search.

  • His labour is the travail of love, by the rule of grace to find the highway to heaven.

  • This time it is not for the body we are in travail, but for the soul.

British Dictionary definitions for travail


painful or excessive labour or exertion
the pangs of childbirth; labour
(intransitive) to suffer or labour painfully, esp in childbirth
Word Origin
C13: from Old French travaillier, from Vulgar Latin tripaliāre (unattested) to torture, from Late Latin trepālium instrument of torture, from Latin tripālis having three stakes, from trēs three + pālus stake
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for travail

"labor, toil," mid-13c., from Old French travail "suffering or painful effort, trouble" (12c.), from travailler "to toil, labor," originally "to trouble, torture," from Vulgar Latin *tripaliare "to torture," from *tripalium (in Late Latin trepalium) "instrument of torture," probably from Latin tripalis "having three stakes" (from tria, tres "three" + palus "stake"), which sounds ominous, but the exact notion is obscure. The verb is recorded from late 13c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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