from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Physical or mental effort or activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of something.
  • noun Such effort or activity by which one makes a living; employment.
  • noun A trade, profession, or other means of livelihood.
  • noun The part of a day devoted to an occupation or undertaking.
  • noun One's place of employment.
  • noun Something that one is doing, making, or performing, especially as an occupation or undertaking; a duty or task.
  • noun An amount of such activity either done or required.
  • noun The action or effect of an agency.
  • noun Something that has been produced or accomplished through the effort, activity, or agency of a person or thing.
  • noun An act; a deed.
  • noun An artistic creation, such as a painting, sculpture, or literary or musical composition, or a creative result of other human activity.
  • noun The output of a writer, artist, or composer considered or collected as a whole.
  • noun Engineering structures, such as bridges or dams.
  • noun A fortified structure, such as a trench or fortress.
  • noun Needlework, weaving, lacemaking, or a similar textile art.
  • noun A piece of such textile art.
  • noun A material or piece of material being processed in a machine during manufacture.
  • noun A factory, plant, or similar building or complex of buildings where a specific type of business or industry is carried on. Often used in combination.
  • noun Internal mechanism.
  • noun The manner, style, or quality of working or treatment; workmanship.
  • noun Physics The transfer of energy from one physical system to another, especially the application of a force to move a body in a certain direction. It is calculated as the product of the force and the distance over which it is applied and is expressed in joules, ergs, and foot-pounds.
  • noun Moral or righteous acts or deeds.
  • noun Informal The full range of possibilities; everything. Used with the:
  • noun Slang A thorough beating or other severe treatment. Used with the:
  • adjective Of, relating to, designed for, or engaged in work.
  • intransitive verb To exert oneself physically or mentally in order to do, make, or accomplish something.
  • intransitive verb To be employed; have a job.
  • intransitive verb To function; operate.
  • intransitive verb To function or operate in the desired or required way.
  • intransitive verb To have a given effect or outcome.
  • intransitive verb To have the desired effect or outcome; prove successful.
  • intransitive verb To exert an influence. Used with on or upon.
  • intransitive verb To arrive at a specified condition through gradual or repeated movement.
  • intransitive verb To proceed or progress slowly and laboriously.
  • intransitive verb To move in an agitated manner, as with emotion.
  • intransitive verb To behave in a specified way when handled or processed.
  • intransitive verb To ferment.
  • intransitive verb To strain in heavy seas so that the joints give slightly and the fastenings become slack. Used of a boat or ship.
  • intransitive verb To sail against the wind.
  • intransitive verb To undergo small motions that result in friction and wear.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Old English weorc; see werg- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old English weorc, worc, from Proto-Germanic *werkan, from Proto-Indo-European *wérǵom; akin to Old Frisian werk, wirk, Old Saxon, Dutch werk, German Werk, Old High German werc, werah, Icelandic & Swedish verk, Danish værk, Gothic 𐌲𐌰𐍅𐌰𐌿𐍂𐌺𐌹 (gawaúrki), Ancient Greek ἔργον (érgon, "work"), from ϝέργον, Avestan verez (to work), Armenian գործ (gorç, "work"), Albanian argëtoj ("entertain, reward, please"). Cognates include: bulwark, energy, erg, georgic, liturgy, metallurgy, organ, surgeon, wright.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old English wyrċan from Proto-Germanic *wurkijanan (“to work”), from Proto-Indo-European *werǵ- (“to work”). Cognate with Old Frisian werka, wirka, Old Saxon wirkian, Low German warken, Dutch werken, Old High German wurken (German wirken, werken and werkeln), Old Norse yrkja and orka, (Swedish yrka and orka), Gothic 𐍅𐌰𐌿𐍂𐌺𐌾𐌰𐌽.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word work.


  • And that worked proved invaluable for our work on law review and for *my work* as a practicing lawyer.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » Teaching to Different Learning Styles in Law School 2009

  • I could doubtless spend another hour or two browsing the You Tube clips of their work -- I'll save that for dessert when I've done some work*&%# first.

    Brief Encounter: Ludicrous, Laughable, Perfect Fresca 2009

  • If anyone has seen such a study that shows that various humans require more calories to do the same amount of work note: a 110lb woman walking 1 mile is not doing the same _work_ as a 300lb man walking 1 mile, I'd love to see it.

    Fat, Sugar, and Control Steven Barnes 2009

  • Most visitors to this blog come during work days when they are supposed to be doing work*.

    Archive 2007-08-01 AYDIN 2007

  • Most visitors to this blog come during work days when they are supposed to be doing work*.

    Thank you for reading this blog instead of working AYDIN 2007

  • Somewhere in Nick's Daedalus project is a great thread of discussion of those who are burned out of guild leadership talk about work, and then there's *work* in an mmorpg.

    Lights will guide you home 2006

  • They are trying to free themselves from the typical ‘boss-servant’ work relationship and form more of a ‘work partnership’.

    Chapter 6 1999

  • They finished the erection in about one hundred and three hours; and thinking of their heroic, courageous and persevering conduct, one is reminded of the building of Nehemiah's wall, which was even less difficult and dangerous than this work on the Bell Rock: -- "So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof; _for the people had a mind to work_."

    Grace Darling Heroine of the Farne Islands Eva Hope

  • England be drawn to take part in a work of such fascinating interest — “_a work_,” if I may once more quote the words of our Bishop in Japan, “_that must be done at once if it is to be done at all_.”

    Religion in Japan

  • In this first year of practical work, _the main point is the formation of correct habits of work_.

    Ontario Teachers' Manuals: Household Management Ontario. Ministry of Education

  • In his 1959 book, “Landmarks of Tomorrow,” he coined the term “knowledge work,” and argued that autonomy would be the central feature of the new corporate world.

    The Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done Condé Nast 2020

  • And consumers are starting to actively get fed up with the accumulating self-service labor, or the extra “shadow work,” that’s filling up their days.

    Why Self-Checkout Is and Has Always Been the Worst The A.V. Club 2019


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • Origin: bef. 900; (n.) ME worke, OE worc, r. ME werk(e), OE weorc, c. OFris, OS werk, OHG werah, werc (G Werk), ON verk, Gk érgon; (v.) ME worken, deriv. of the n., r. ME wyrchen, OE wyrcean; c. G wirken, ON verkja, Goth waurkjan

    December 10, 2006

  • "Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough not to quit."

    --U.S.News Editorial page: "Words to Live By" Jan 8, 2007

    January 8, 2007

  • So, Keep your back to the wall. Your ear to the ground. Your shoulder to the wheel. And your nose to the grindstone.

    Now, Try to WORK in that position!!

    February 8, 2007

  • Work is the bane of the drinking class. - Oscar Wilde

    May 24, 2007

  • "People who work sitting down get paid more than people who work standing up." - Ogden Nash

    July 30, 2008

  • bell hooks in 'Eating the Other' (essay) uses 'work' surrounded by quotes in the sense of 'work it' - use something, profit from something (usually your booty) - this is just delicious. Commodity culture... "works" both the idea that racial difference marks one as Other... (and you'll have to read the article to see what the complement to that idea is, because it's both complex and key, so taking it out of context doesn't really work for me)

    September 12, 2011

  • It took me a while to ____ out that bell hooks does not referring to rigging in the campanile.

    September 12, 2011