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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
  • As he drove he mused over what travail would say when he saw these shells.

    Made in Tanganyika Carl Richard Jacobi
  • I take the siller to feed the false wants of the waster, that should help the honorable man in his travail.

    Merkland Mrs. Oliphant
  • "I was looking for my tobacco pouch," travail replied easily.

    Made in Tanganyika Carl Richard Jacobi
  • 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
  • Pray that He may see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied with each of them.

    Things as They Are Amy Wilson-Carmichael
  • My poor brethren, sore indeed has been your travail, and your cry of pain pierces the centuries.

    Ghetto Tragedies Israel Zangwill
  • And pray that we may enter into that travail of soul with Him.

    Things as They Are Amy Wilson-Carmichael
  • His labour is the travail of love, by the rule of grace to find the highway to heaven.

  • His mind had been in travail; his soul had known the pangs of labor.

    The Lion's Skin Rafael Sabatini
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
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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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