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

  • n. Physical or mental effort or activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of something.
  • n. A job; employment: looking for work.
  • n. A trade, profession, or other means of livelihood.
  • n. Something that one is doing, making, or performing, especially as an occupation or undertaking; a duty or task: begin the day's work.
  • n. An amount of such activity either done or required: a week's work.
  • n. The part of a day devoted to an occupation or undertaking: met her after work.
  • n. One's place of employment: Should I call you at home or at work?
  • n. Something that has been produced or accomplished through the effort, activity, or agency of a person or thing: This story is the work of an active imagination. Erosion is the work of wind, water, and time.
  • n. Full action or effect of an agency: The sleeping pills did their work.
  • n. An act; a deed: "I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity” ( Ecclesiastes 1:14).
  • n. An artistic creation, such as a painting, sculpture, or literary or musical composition; a work of art.
  • n. The output of a writer, artist, or musician considered or collected as a whole: the works of Shakespeare.
  • n. Engineering structures, such as bridges or dams.
  • n. A fortified structure, such as a trench or fortress.
  • n. Needlework, weaving, lacemaking, or a similar textile art.
  • n. A piece of such textile art.
  • n. A material or piece of material being processed in a machine during manufacture: work to be turned in the lathe.
  • n. 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: a steelworks.
  • n. Internal mechanism: the works of a watch.
  • n. The manner, style, or quality of working or treatment; workmanship.
  • n. Physics The transfer of energy from one physical system to another, especially the transfer of energy to a body by the application of a force that moves the body in the direction of the force. It is calculated as the product of the force and the distance through which the body moves and is expressed in joules, ergs, and foot-pounds.
  • n. Moral or righteous acts or deeds: salvation by faith rather than works.
  • n. Informal The full range of possibilities; everything. Used with the: ordered a pizza with the works.
  • n. Slang A thorough beating or other severe treatment. Used with the: took him outside and gave him the works.
  • adj. Of, relating to, designed for, or engaged in work.
  • intransitive v. To exert oneself physically or mentally in order to do, make, or accomplish something.
  • intransitive v. To be employed; have a job.
  • intransitive v. To function; operate: How does this latch work?
  • intransitive v. To function or operate in the desired or required way: The telephone hasn't worked since the thunderstorm.
  • intransitive v. To have a given effect or outcome: Our friendship works best when we speak our minds.
  • intransitive v. To have the desired effect or outcome; prove successful: This recipe seems to work.
  • intransitive v. To exert an influence. Used with on or upon: worked on her to join the group.
  • intransitive v. To arrive at a specified condition through gradual or repeated movement: The stitches worked loose.
  • intransitive v. To proceed or progress slowly and laboriously: worked through the underbrush; worked through my problems in therapy.
  • intransitive v. To move in an agitated manner, as with emotion: Her mouth worked with fear.
  • intransitive v. To behave in a specified way when handled or processed: Not all metals work easily.
  • intransitive v. To ferment.
  • intransitive v. Nautical To strain in heavy seas so that the joints give slightly and the fastenings become slack. Used of a boat or ship.
  • intransitive v. Nautical To sail against the wind.
  • intransitive v. To undergo small motions that result in friction and wear: The gears work against each other.
  • transitive v. To cause or effect; bring about: working miracles.
  • transitive v. To cause to operate or function; actuate, use, or manage: worked the controls; can work a lathe.
  • transitive v. To shape or forge: "Each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor” ( Edgar Allan Poe).
  • transitive v. To make or decorate by needlework: work a sampler.
  • transitive v. To solve (a problem) by calculation and reasoning.
  • transitive v. To knead, stir, or otherwise manipulate in preparation: Work the dough before shaping it.
  • transitive v. To bring to a specified condition by gradual or repeated effort or work: finally worked the window open; worked the slaves to death.
  • transitive v. To make, achieve, or pay for by work or effort: worked her way to the top; worked his passage on the ship.
  • transitive v. Informal To arrange or contrive. Often used with it: worked it so that her weekends are free.
  • transitive v. To make productive; cultivate: work a farm.
  • transitive v. To cause to work: works his laborers hard.
  • transitive v. To excite or provoke: worked the mob into a frenzy.
  • transitive v. Informal To gratify, cajole, or enchant artfully, especially for the purpose of influencing: The politician worked the crowd. The comedian worked the room with flawless rhythm.
  • transitive v. Informal To use or manipulate to one's own advantage; exploit: learned how to work the system; worked his relatives for sympathy.
  • transitive v. To carry on an operation or function in or through: the agent who works that area; working the phones for donations.
  • transitive v. To ferment (liquor, for example).
  • work in To insert or introduce: worked in a request for money.
  • work in To make an opening for, as in a schedule: said the doctor would try to work her in.
  • work in To cause to be inserted by repeated or continuous effort.
  • work into To insert or introduce into.
  • work into To make an opening for (someone or something) in: worked a few field trips into the semester's calendar.
  • work into To cause to be inserted in by repeated or continuous effort: worked the pick into the lock.
  • work off To get rid of by work or effort: work off extra pounds; work off a debt.
  • work out To accomplish by work or effort.
  • work out To find a solution for; solve: worked out the equations; worked out their personal differences.
  • work out To formulate or develop: work out a plan.
  • work out To discharge (an obligation or debt) with labor in place of money.
  • work out To prove successful, effective, or satisfactory: The new strategy may not work out.
  • work out To have a specified result: The ratio works out to an odd number. It worked out that everyone left on the same train.
  • work out To engage in strenuous exercise for physical conditioning.
  • work out To exhaust (a mine, for example).
  • work over To do for a second time; rework.
  • work over Slang To inflict severe physical damage on; beat up.
  • work up To arouse the emotions of; excite.
  • work up To increase one's skill, responsibility, efficiency, or status through work: worked up to 30 sit-ups a day; worked up to store manager.
  • work up To intensify gradually: The film works up to a thrilling climax.
  • work up To develop or produce by mental or physical effort: worked up a patient profile; worked up an appetite.
  • idiom at work Engaged in labor; working: at work on a new project.
  • idiom at work In operation: inflationary forces at work in the economy.
  • idiom in the works In preparation; under development: has a novel in the works.
  • idiom out of work Without a job; unemployed.
  • idiom put in work To perform labor or duties, as on a specified project: put in work on the plastering.
  • idiom work both sides of the street To engage in double-dealing; be duplicitous.
  • idiom work like a charm To function very well or have a very good effect or outcome.
  • idiom work (one's) fingers to the bone To labor extremely hard; toil or travail.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Labour, employment, occupation, job.
  • n. The place where one is employed.
  • n. Effort expended on a particular task.
  • n. The result of a particular manner of production.
  • n. Something produced using the specified material or tool.
  • n. A literary, artistic, or intellectual production.
  • n. A measure of energy expended in moving an object; most commonly, force times distance. No work is done if the object does not move.
  • n. A fortification.
  • n. The staging of events to appear as real.
  • v. To do a specific task by employing physical or mental powers.
  • v. To effect by gradual degrees.
  • v. To embroider with thread.
  • v. To set into action.
  • v. To cause to ferment.
  • v. To exhaust, by working.
  • v. To shape, form, or improve a material.
  • v. To operate in a certain place, area, or speciality.
  • v. To operate in or through; as, to work the phones.
  • v. To provoke or excite; to influence.
  • v. To use or manipulate to one’s advantage.
  • v. To cause to happen or to occur as a consequence.
  • v. To cause to work.
  • v. To function correctly; to act as intended; to achieve the goal designed for.
  • v. To influence.
  • v. To effect by gradual degrees; as, to work into the earth.
  • v. To move in an agitated manner.
  • v. To behave in a certain way when handled;
  • v. To cause (someone) to feel (something).
  • v. To hurt; to ache.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Exertion of strength or faculties; physical or intellectual effort directed to an end; industrial activity; toil; employment; sometimes, specifically, physical labor.
  • n. The matter on which one is at work; that upon which one spends labor; material for working upon; subject of exertion; the thing occupying one; business; duty.
  • n. That which is produced as the result of labor; anything accomplished by exertion or toil; product; performance; fabric; manufacture; in a more general sense, act, deed, service, effect, result, achievement, feat.
  • n. Specifically: (a) That which is produced by mental labor; a composition; a book. (b) Flowers, figures, or the like, wrought with the needle; embroidery.
  • n. Structures in civil, military, or naval engineering, as docks, bridges, embankments, trenches, fortifications, and the like; also, the structures and grounds of a manufacturing establishment.
  • n. The moving parts of a mechanism; as, the works of a watch.
  • n. Manner of working; management; treatment.
  • n. The causing of motion against a resisting force. The amount of work is proportioned to, and is measured by, the product of the force into the amount of motion along the direction of the force. See Conservation of energy, under Conservation, Unit of work, under Unit, also Foot pound, Horse power, Poundal, and Erg.
  • n. Ore before it is dressed.
  • n. Performance of moral duties; righteous conduct.
  • n. Break; twist.
  • n. The causing of motion against a resisting force, measured by the product of the force into the component of the motion resolved along the direction of the force.
  • n. Ore before it is dressed.
  • intransitive v. To exert one's self for a purpose; to put forth effort for the attainment of an object; to labor; to be engaged in the performance of a task, a duty, or the like.
  • intransitive v. Hence, in a general sense, to operate; to act; to perform.
  • intransitive v. Hence, figuratively, to be effective; to have effect or influence; to conduce.
  • intransitive v. To carry on business; to be engaged or employed customarily; to perform the part of a laborer; to labor; to toil.
  • intransitive v. To be in a state of severe exertion, or as if in such a state; to be tossed or agitated; to move heavily; to strain; to labor.
  • intransitive v. To make one's way slowly and with difficulty; to move or penetrate laboriously; to proceed with effort; -- with a following preposition, as down, out, into, up, through, and the like.
  • intransitive v. To ferment, as a liquid.
  • intransitive v. To act or operate on the stomach and bowels, as a cathartic.
  • transitive v. To labor or operate upon; to give exertion and effort to; to prepare for use, or to utilize, by labor.
  • transitive v. To produce or form by labor; to bring forth by exertion or toil; to accomplish; to originate; to effect
  • transitive v. To produce by slow degrees, or as if laboriously; to bring gradually into any state by action or motion.
  • transitive v. To influence by acting upon; to prevail upon; to manage; to lead.
  • transitive v. To form with a needle and thread or yarn; especially, to embroider.
  • transitive v. To set in motion or action; to direct the action of; to keep at work; to govern; to manage.
  • transitive v. To cause to ferment, as liquor.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Nautical, to move slightly, as a structural part of a vessel, with reference to adjacent parts; change form slightly, as a vessel: due to the strains brought upon a vessel that is rolling or pitching at sea.
  • In machin., to have an undesired motion due to defective fitting of the bearing, guiding, or supporting areas of contact, or from wear.
  • In horticulture, to graft or to bud.
  • To put forth effort for the accomplishment of something; exert one's self in the performance of some service; labor; toil; strive: as, to work ten hours a day.
  • To act; operate; carry on or perform a function; operate effectively; prove practicable: as, the pump will not work; a plan or system that works well; the charm works.
  • To ferment, as liquors.
  • To be agitated or in a state of restless movement or commotion; seethe; toss; rage.
  • To make way laboriously and slowly; make progress, become, or get with exertion and difficulty: generally followed by an adjective, or by an adverb of direction, as along, down. into, out, through, up, etc.: as, to work loose; to work out; to work up.
  • To carry on systematic operations in some department of human activity, especially as a means of earning a livelihood; be regularly engaged or employed in some operation, trade, profession, or business: as, to work in brass or iron.
  • To do something; specifically, to be employed in handiwork, as in knitting, sewing, or embroidery.
  • To blossom, as water; become full of some vegetable substance. See the quotation.
  • To rely on.
  • Synonyms Act, Work, etc. See act.
  • To prepare by labor; manipulate: as, to work soil or clay.
  • To convert to use by labor or effort; operate: as, to work a quarry; to work a scheme.
  • To make; form; fashion; execute; mold.
  • To decorate or ornament, as with needlework; embroider.
  • To do, perform, or accomplish; bring about; effect; produce; cause: as, to work mischief; to work a change; to work wonders.
  • To put or set in motion or action: as, to work one's fingers.
  • To direct the action or movements of; manage; handle: as, to work a sawmill.
  • In music, to handle or treat (a voice-part or a theme).
  • To bring by action or motion into some particular state, usually indicated by an adverb or adverbial adjunct, as in, out, over, up, etc. See phrases below.
  • To manage or turn to some particular course or way of thinking or acting by insidious means; influence in some respect by plying with arguments, urgings, threats, bribes, etc.; prevail on or gain over; induce; persuade; lead: as, to work the committee; to work the jury
  • To excite by degrees; bring into a state of perturbation or passion; provoke; agitate.
  • To succeed in effecting, attaining, or making; win by labor; achieve: as, to work a passage through something.
  • To endeavor; attempt; try.
  • To operate on, as a purgative or other drug; purge.
  • To ply one's trade, calling, vocation, or business in; carry on operations in or on: as, to work a district in canvassing for a publication.
  • To exact labor or service from; keep busy or employed: as, he works his horses too hard.
  • To solve: as, to work a sum in arithmetic or a problem in algebra.
  • To cause to ferment: said of anything which is put into a liquid for that purpose.
  • To cause to enter or penetrate by repeated efforts: as, the wire was slowly worked, in.
  • To change or alter by gradual process or influence.
  • To elaborate; develop; reduce to order; study out.
  • To solve, as a problem.
  • To erase; efface; remove.
  • To exhanst: as, to work out a mine or quarry.
  • To use up in the process of manufacture or the like; expend in any work: as, we have worked up all our materials.
  • To expand; enlarge; elaborate: as, to work up a story or an article from a few hints.
  • To master by carefnl study or research: as, to work up a theme.
  • To achieve or attain by special effort: as, to work up a reputation for one's self.
  • Nautical, to discipline or punish by setting at an unnecessary or hateful job, like scraping the anchor-chain. Such a piece of work is called a working-up job.
  • n. A movement of strata of the earth upon one another which causes creeping, squeezing, or faulting of the veins or lodes in a mine.
  • n. Effort or exertion directed to the accomplishment of some purpose or end; expenditure of strength, energy, etc.; toil; labor; striving.
  • n. Opportunity of expending labor (physical or mental) in some useful or remunerative way, especially as a means of earning a livelihood; employment; something to do: as, to be out of work; to look for work.
  • n. That upon which one is employed or engaged, and in the accomplishment of which labor is expended or some operation performed; a task, undertaking, enterprise, or project.
  • n. Something accomplished or done; doing; deed; achievement; feat; performance.
  • n. plural In theology, acts performed in obedience to the law of God.
  • n. Active operation; action.
  • n. Ferment; trouble.
  • n. That which is made or manufactured; an article, fabric, or structure produced by expenditure of effort or labor of some kind, whether physical or mental; a product of nature or art.
  • n. Hence, specifically
  • n. That which is produced by mental labor; a literary or artistic performance; a composition: as, the works of Addison; the works of Mozart. See opus.
  • n. An engineering structure, as a building, dock, embankment, bridge, or fortification.
  • n. Design; pattern; workmanship.
  • n. Embroidery; ornamental work done with the needle; needlework.
  • n. An establishment for manufacturing, or for performing industrial labor of any sort: generally in the plural, including all the buildings, machines, etc., used in the required operations: as, iron-works; hence the plural is used as a collective singular, taking then a singular article: as, there is a large glass- works in the town.
  • n. In mech.:


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

Middle English, from Old English weorc.

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.


  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

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

    Archive 2007-08-01

  • 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

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

    Chapter 6

  • 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

  • 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

  • When, however, society had developed industrially to a stage enabling the victors to make use of live men as work animals, _that new industrial condition produced a new idea_ -- one of the greatest and most revolutionary ideas that ever flashed into the human brain; and that idea was simply this: A live man is worth more than a dead one, if you can make use of him as a _work animal_.

    Socialism As It Is A Survey of The World-Wide Revolutionary Movement


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

    September 12, 2011

  • 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

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

    July 30, 2008

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

    May 24, 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

  • "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

  • 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