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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.
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 travails
  • Hedge fund managers, let us toast the triumphs and travails of your secretive world as the year draws to a close.
  • His personal travails and heroism are, however, worthy of our enduring respect.
  • The government's own actions contributed mightily to the baht's travails.
  • The spacecraft's travails highlight the difficulty of working remotely in the inhospitable environment of deep space.
  • The interminable travails over efforts to set standard container sizes, for instance, are important but mind-numbing.
  • The party's travails are producing a fierce argument on the right.
  • The travails of finance, in turn, may prevent the recovering economy from backing and exploiting innovations.
  • But above all he will need to draw the right lessons from its travails.
  • travails in vain to hide the sweet that should relieve his pain.
  • Doing so is a lifelong project and requires cultivating a whole new way of thinking about life's travails.
British Dictionary definitions for travails


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 travails



"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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