Definitions

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

  • intransitive v. To labor continuously; work strenuously.
  • intransitive v. To proceed with difficulty: toiling over the mountains.
  • n. Exhausting labor or effort: "A bit of the blackest and coarsest bread is . . . the sole recompense and the sole profit attaching to so arduous a toil” ( George Sand). See Synonyms at work.
  • n. Archaic Strife; contention.
  • n. Something that binds, snares, or entangles one; an entrapment. Often used in the plural: caught in the toils of despair.
  • n. Archaic A net for trapping game.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. labour, work
  • n. trouble, strife
  • n. A net or snare; any thread, web, or string spread for taking prey; usually in the plural.
  • v. To labour; work.
  • v. To struggle.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A net or snare; any thread, web, or string spread for taking prey; -- usually in the plural.
  • intransitive v. To exert strength with pain and fatigue of body or mind, especially of the body, with efforts of some continuance or duration; to labor; to work.
  • transitive v. To weary; to overlabor.
  • transitive v. To labor; to work; -- often with out.
  • n. Labor with pain and fatigue; labor that oppresses the body or mind, esp. the body.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In the toils, ensnared; captured.
  • To pull about; tug; drag.
  • To harass; weary or exhaust by toil: often used reflexively (whence later, by omission of the reflexive pronoun, the intransitive use): sometimes with out.
  • To labor; work; till.
  • To work, especially for a considerable time, and with great or painful fatigue of body or mind; labor.
  • To move or travel with difficulty, weariness, or pain.
  • Synonyms To drudge, moil, strive. See the noun.
  • n. Confusion; turmoil; uproar; struggle; tussle.
  • n. Harassing labor; labor accompanied with fatigue and pain; exhausting effort.
  • n. A work accomplished; an achievement.
  • n. Synonyms Labor, Drudgery, etc. (see work, n.); effort, exertion, pains.
  • n. A net, snare, or gin; any web, cord, or thread spread for taking prey.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. productive work (especially physical work done for wages)
  • v. work hard

Etymologies

Middle English toilen, from Anglo-Norman toiler, to stir about, from Latin tudiculāre, from tudicula, a machine for bruising olives, diminutive of tudes, hammer.
French toile, cloth, from Old French teile, from Latin tēla, web; see teks- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English toilen, toylen, apparently a conflation of Anglo-Norman toiler ("to agitate, stir up, entangle") (compare Old Northern French toiller, touellier ("to agitate, stir"; of unknown origin)), and Middle English tilen, telien, teolien, tolen, tolien, tulien ("to till, work, labour"), from Old English tilian, telian, teolian, tiolian ("to exert oneself, toil, work, make, generate, strive after, try, endeavor, procure, obtain, gain, provide, tend, cherish, cultivate, till, plough, trade, traffic, aim at, aspire to, treat, cure") (compare Middle Dutch tuylen, teulen ("to till, work, labour")), from Proto-Germanic *tilōnan (“to strive, reach for, aim for, hurry”). Cognate with Scots tulyie ("to quarrel, flite, contend"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • At the same time, critics, perhaps especially critics who are not themselves "creative" writers, ought more often to acknowledge that this toil is only compounded in the labor performed by poets and novelists.

    Principles of Literary Criticism

  • A curse was laid upon them, it would seem, and they must work it out in toil and hardship.

    KEESH, SON OF KEESH

  • BUT THEN, it happens, we make the cheesecake – all the ingredients come together and in the midst of toil is perfection!

    Writer Unboxed » Blog Archive » It’s all about the cheesecake

  • Some are rich they have money enough for a thousand men all to themselves — and they live without occupation; others bow their backs in toil all their life, and they haven't a penny.

    Fomá Gordyéeff

  • The best of nights and days of toil is that there comes a twilight in which fatigued eyes see clear.

    The Kempton-Wace Letters

  • You know what that sum really means in toil and effort and work; work, here, there and everywhere on every farm right over this great country.

    Our Mission—Sound Public Finance

  • Work songs of all kinds sustained the rhythm of the hand in toil, while the mind escaped on the wing of romance.

    Folk Songs of French Canada

  • Therefore in addition to adequate wages, Labor demands a fair share of the profits resulting from the industry, its toil is aiding to develop.

    Brain, Brawn, Capital

  • The fact is, the peon of Mexico, so far as liberty and a share in the happiness produced by his toil is concerned, is as much a slave as he ever was.

    Mexico's Army and Ours

  • It took us, after his arrival, twenty-eight days to accomplish the twenty-eight hours of express between Cannes and Trieste in toil, anguish, and anxiety.

    The Romance of Isabel, Lady Burton

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