If you’ve had to bust your behind, burn the midnight oil, and shed blood, sweat, and tears to get where you are today, you could say you’ve endured significant travail. In other words, back-breakingly hard mental exertion or physical labor.

Travail comes to us from a sinister Latin word: trepalium, meaning “instrument of torture.” The closest English word is probably toil, though travail means you’re not just exerting monumental effort but suffering as you do so. If your life has been hard-knock enough to be the stuff of old blues songs or Shakespearean tragedies, you’ve had your share of travails. In French, incidentally, travail simply means "work." The Spanish trabajo, "work," is closely related.

Definitions of travail
  1. noun
    use of physical or mental energy; hard work
    synonyms: effort, elbow grease, exertion, sweat
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    strenuous effort
    difficulty, trouble
    an effort that is inconvenient
    least effort, least resistance
    the least effortful way to do something
    strain, straining
    an intense or violent exertion
    exercise, exercising, physical exercise, physical exertion, workout
    the activity of exerting your muscles in various ways to keep fit
    a sustained effort
    application, diligence
    a diligent effort
    any effort that seems to go farther than would be necessary to achieve its goal
    an effort above and beyond the call of duty
    excessive exertion; so much exertion that discomfort or injury results
    detrition, friction, rubbing
    effort expended in moving one object over another with pressure
    the act of rubbing together; wearing something down by friction
    cardiopulmonary exercise
    exercise intended to strengthen the circulatory system
    gymnastic exercise
    (gymnastics) an exercise designed to develop and display strength and agility and balance (usually performed with or on some gymnastic apparatus)
    kick up
    raising the feet backward with the hands on the ground; a first movement in doing a handstand
    grapple, grappling, hand-to-hand struggle, wrestle, wrestling
    the act of engaging in close hand-to-hand combat
    the devil
    something difficult or awkward to do or deal with
    (Yiddish) aggravating trouble
    exercise set, set
    several exercises intended to be done in series
    anaerobic exercise, bodybuilding, muscle building, musclebuilding
    exercise that builds muscles through tension
    calisthenics, callisthenics
    light exercises designed to promote general fitness
    isometric exercise, isometrics
    muscle-building exercises (or a system of musclebuilding exercises) involving muscular contractions against resistance without movement (the muscles contracts but the length of the muscle does not change)
    isotonic exercise
    exercise in which opposing muscles contract and there is controlled movement (tension is constant while the lengths of the muscles change)
    Kegel exercises, pubococcygeus exercises
    exercises for women designed to improve the ability to hold urine
    stretch, stretching
    exercise designed to extend the limbs and muscles to their full extent
    arm exercise
    exercise designed to strengthen the arm muscles
    back exercise
    exercise designed to strengthen the back muscles
    leg exercise
    exercise designed to strengthen the leg muscles
    neck exercise
    exercise designed to strengthen the neck muscles
    stomach exercise, tummy crunch
    an exercise designed to strengthen the abdominal muscles
    a system of exercises practiced as part of the Hindu discipline to promote control of the body and mind
    type of:
    labor, labour, toil
    productive work (especially physical work done for wages)
  2. verb
    work hard
    synonyms: dig, drudge, fag, grind, labor, labour, moil, toil
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    type of:
    do work, work
    be employed
  3. noun
    concluding state of pregnancy; from the onset of contractions to the birth of a child
    synonyms: childbed, confinement, labor, labour, lying-in, parturiency
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    premature labor, premature labour
    labor beginning prior to the 37th week of gestation
    type of:
    birth, birthing, giving birth, parturition
    the process of giving birth
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