Share this

US /wɝːk/ 
UK /wɜːk/ 

Oxford Essential Dictionary



1 (no plural) the job that you do to earn money:
I'm looking for work.
What time do you start work?
How long have you been out of work (= without a job)?

which word?
Work or job? Work has no plural, so you cannot say 'a work' or 'works'. You can say: I'm looking for work or you have to say a job or jobs: I'm looking for a job.

2 (no plural) the place where you have a job:
I phoned him at work.
I'm not going to work today.

3 (no plural) doing or making something:
Digging the garden is hard work.
She's so lazy – she never does any work.
The group are at work on (= making) a new album.

4 (no plural) something that you make or do:
The teacher marked our work.
The artist only sells her work to friends.

5 (plural works) a book, painting or piece of music:
He's read the complete works of Shakespeare.
A number of priceless works of art were stolen from the gallery.

6 works (plural) a place where people make things with machines:
My grandfather worked at the steelworks.

get to work to start doing something:
Let's get to work on this washing-up.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

II. work2 S1 W1 BrE AmE noun
[Word Family: noun: work, workaholic, worker, working, WORKINGS; adjective: workable ≠ unworkable, overworked, working; verb: work, rework]
[Language: Old English; Origin: werc, weorc]
1. JOB [uncountable] a job or activity that you do regularly, especially in order to earn money ⇨ employment:
There isn’t a lot of work at this time of the year.
He’s been out of work (=without a job) for two years.
More people are in work (=have a job) than ten years ago.
before/after work (=before a day of work or at the end of a day of work)
Do you want to go for a drink after work?
In this meaning, work is an uncountable noun. Do not say 'a work'. Say work or a job:
▪ It may be difficult for older people to obtain paid work.
▪ I applied for a job (NOT a work) as a reporter.
2. PLACE [uncountable] a place where you do your job, which is not your home:
I had an accident on the way to work.
He left work at the usual time.
I went out with the girls from work last night.
at work
Dad’s at work right now.
3. DUTIES [uncountable] the duties and activities that are part of your job:
A large part of the work we do involves using computers.
He starts work at 4 am.
He’s started a business doing gardening and roofing work.
4. RESULT [uncountable] something that you produce as a result of doing your job or doing an activity:
Send a résumé and examples of your work.
The building is the work of architect Rafael Moneo.
The teacher should make sure that each child has a piece of work displayed on the wall.
The standard of work has declined.
5. PAPERS ETC [uncountable] the papers and other materials you need for doing work:
Can you move some of your work off the kitchen table?
I often have to take work home with me.
6. BOOK/PAINTING/MUSIC [countable] something such as a painting, play, piece of music etc that is produced by a painter, writer, or musician:
the Collected Works of Shakespeare
It is another accomplished work by the artist. ⇨ ↑work of art
7. ACTIVITY [uncountable] when you use physical or mental effort in order to achieve something
work on
Work will start next month on a new swimming pool in the centre of the city.
Looking after children can be hard work.
carry out/do work
You should not allow unqualified people to carry out work on your house.
set to work/get down to work (=start work)
He set to work immediately.
8. STUDY [uncountable] study or ↑research, especially for a particular purpose
carry out/do work
The centre carries out work to monitor trends in housing management.
He did his postgraduate work in Sociology.
9. at work
a) doing your job or a particular activity:
He spent most of his time watching the fishermen at work.
b) having a particular influence or effect:
Volcanoes display some of nature’s most powerful forces at work.
10. the (whole) works spoken used after mentioning several things, to emphasize that someone or something has everything you can think of:
The hotel had everything – sauna, swimming pool, the works.
11. nice work/quick work spoken used to praise someone for doing something well or quickly:
That was quick work!
12. something is in the works/pipeline informal used to say that something is being planned or developed:
Upgrades to the existing software are in the works.
13. works
a) [plural] activities involved in building or repairing things such as roads, bridges etc
engineering works/irrigation works/roadworks
the official in charge of the engineering works ⇨ ↑public works
b) [countable] (plural works) a building or group of buildings in which goods are produced in large quantities or an industrial process happens
ironworks/gasworks/cement works
The brick works closed last year.
14. the works the moving parts of a machine SYN mechanism
15. OPERATION [uncountable] an operation to make you look younger or more attractive SYN cosmetic surgery:
All these celebrities have had work done.
16. have your work cut out (for you) informal used to say that it will be very difficult to do something:
The team will have their work cut out if they are to win the competition.
17. make short/light work of something to do something very quickly and easily:
A microwave oven can make light work of the cooking.
18. make heavy/hard work of something to do something with difficulty:
They made hard work of what should have been an easy game.
19. be a work in progress to not be finished or perfect yet:
The garden is still very much a work in progress.
20. all work and no play (makes Jack a dull boy) used to say that you should not spend all your time working, but should spend some of your time relaxing
21. FORCE [uncountable] technical force multiplied by distance
be all in a day’s work at day(21), ⇨ do sb’s dirty work at dirty1(8), ⇨ a nasty piece of work at nasty(7), ⇨ nice work if you can get it at nice(12)
• • •
COLLOCATIONS (for Meanings 1 & 3)
■ verbs
start work He started work as a trainee accountant.
look for work (also seek work formal) Young people come to town looking for work.
find work (=get a job) It was difficult for them to find work.
return to work/go back to work His doctor agreed he was fit enough to return to work.
part-time work In recent years part-time work has become more popular.
full-time work Are you available for full-time work?
paid work She hasn’t done any paid work since she had children.
secretarial/clerical/office work I have a background in secretarial work. | She had done clerical work before she married.
legal work (=work done by lawyers) He will handle all the legal work.
manual work (=work done with your hands) Most of them were employed in manual work.
voluntary work British English, volunteer work American English (=a job you are not paid for) She also did voluntary work in a girls’ club.
sb’s daily work (=the work someone does every day) When they finished their daily work they would be too tired for much except rest.
■ phrases
sb’s line of work (=type of work) I meet lots of interesting people in my line of work.
the work environment It is important to have a pleasant work environment.
work practices She supported me enthusiastically in bringing in new work practices.
• • •
COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 7)
■ verbs
carry out work The work should be carried out without further delay.
do work He was doing some work on his father’s car.
set to/get to/get down to work (=start work) They set to work cutting down trees and brushwood.
undertake work About a three adults in ten undertake voluntary work.
work starts/begins Work had already started on the bridge when the error was spotted.
work continues Work is continuing on three major building projects.
■ adjectives
hard It’s been very hard work, but I’ve loved every moment of it.
backbreaking (=very tiring) Clearing the garden was slow, backbreaking work.
arduous (=needing a lot of effort) This was physically arduous work.
heavy work (=hard physical work) The heavy work is done by the gardener.
light work (=work that is not physically hard) He had been ill, but she found him some light work to do.

Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary




1. uncountable the job that a person does especially in order to earn money
Syn:  employment
She had been out of work (= without a job) for a year.
(BrE) They are in work (= have a job).
He started work as a security guard.
It is difficult to find work in the present economic climate.
I'm still looking for work.
She's planning to return to work once the children start school.
What line of work are you in (= what type of work do you do)?
before/after work (= in the morning/evening each day)

full-time/part-time/unpaid/voluntary work

2. uncountable the duties that you have and the activities that you do as part of your job
Police work is mainly routine.
• The accountant described his work to the sales staff.

see also  piecework, social work

3. uncountable tasks that need to be done
There is plenty of work to be done in the garden.
Taking care of a baby is hard work.
I have some work for you to do.
• Stop talking and get on with your work.

see also  homework, schoolwork

4. uncountable materials needed or used for doing work, especially books, papers, etc
She often brings work (= for example, files and documents) home with her from the office.
• His work was spread all over the floor.

see also  paperwork  




5. uncountable (used without the) the place where you do your job
I go to work at 8 o'clock.
When do you leave for work?
The new legislation concerns health and safety at work.
I have to leave work early today.

• Her friends from work came to see her in the hospital.  




6. uncountable the use of physical strength or mental power in order to do or make sth
She earned her grades through sheer hard work.
We started work on the project in 2009.
Work continues on renovating the hotel.
The work of building the bridge took six months.
The art collection was his life's work.
She set them to work painting the fence.
• They performed pioneering work on the treatment of cancer.

see also  donkey work, fieldwork  




7. uncountable a thing or things that are produced as a result of work
She's an artist whose work I really admire.
Is this all your own work (= did you do it without help from others)?

• The book is a detailed and thorough piece of work covering all aspects of the subject.  




8. uncountable the result of an action; what is done by sb

• The damage is clearly the work of vandals.  




9. countable a book, piece of music, painting, etc
the collected/complete works of Tolstoy
works of fiction/literature
Beethoven's piano works
He recognized the sketch as an early work by Degas.
compare  opus 

see also  work of art  




10. works plural (often in compounds) activities involving building or repairing sth
They expanded the shipyards and started engineering works.
• A contract can ensure that landlords carry out the works for which they are legally responsible.

see also  public works  




11. works(pl. works) countable + singular or plural verb (often in compounds) a place where things are made or industrial processes take place
an engineering works
• a brickworks

• Raw materials were carried to the works by barge.  




12. the works plural the moving parts of a machine, etc.

Syn:  mechanism  




13. the works plural (informal) everything

• We went to the chip shop and had the works: fish, chips, gherkins, mushy peas.  




14. uncountable the use of force to produce movement
see also  joule 
more at all in a day's work at  day, the devil makes work for idle hands at  devil, (do sb's) dirty work at  dirty  adj., many hands make light work at  hand  n., make hard work of sthtoo much like hard work at  hard  adj., a job of work at  job, make light work of sth at  light  adj., a nasty piece of work at  nasty, nice worknice work if you can get it at  nice, shoot the works at  shoot  v., make short work of sb/sth at  short  adj., (throw) a spanner in the works at  spanner  
Word Origin:
Old English weorc (noun), wyrcan (verb), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch werk and German Werk, from an Indo-European root shared by Greek ergon.  
Getting a job
look for work
look for/apply for/go for a job
get/pick up/complete/fill out/ (BrE) fill in an application (form)
send/email your (BrE) CV/(NAmE) résumé/application/application form/covering letter
be called for/have/attend an interview
offer sb a job/work/employment/promotion
find/get/land a job
employ/ (especially NAmE) hire/recruit/ (especially BrE) take on staff/workers/trainees
recruit/appoint a manager
Doing a job
arrive at/get to/leave work/the office/the factory
start/finish work/your shift
do/put in/work overtime
have/gain/get/lack/need experience/qualifications
do/get/have/receive training
learn/pick up/improve/develop (your) skills
cope with/manage/share/spread the workload
improve your/achieve a better work-life balance
have (no) job satisfaction/job security
Building a career
have a job/work/a career/a vocation
find/follow/pursue/ (especially NAmE) live (out) your vocation
enter/go into/join a profession
choose/embark on/start/begin/pursue a career
change jobs/profession/career
be/ (both especially BrE) work/go freelance
do/take on temp work/freelance work
do/be engaged in/be involved in voluntary work
Leaving your job
leave/ (especially NAmE) quit/resign from your job
give up work/your job/your career
hand in your notice/resignation
plan to/be due to retire in June/next year, etc.
take early retirement 
Losing your job
lose your job
(BrE) become/be made redundant
be offered/take voluntary redundancy/early retirement
face/be threatened with dismissal/(BrE) the sack/(BrE) compulsory redundancy
dismiss/fire/ (especially BrE) sack an employee/a worker/a manager
lay off staff/workers/employees
(AustralE, NZE, SAfrE) retrench workers
cut/reduce/downsize/slash the workforce
(BrE) make staff/workers/employees redundant
Being unemployed
be unemployed/out of work/out of a job
seek/look for work/employment
be on/collect/draw/get/receive (both BrE) unemployment benefit/jobseeker's allowance
be/go/live/sign (BrE, informal) on the dole
claim/draw/get (BrE, informal) the dole
be on/qualify for (NAmE) unemployment (compensation)
be/go/live/depend (NAmE) on welfare
collect/receive (NAmE) welfare
combat/tackle/cut/reduce unemployment 
plant mill works yard workshop foundry
These are all words for buildings or places where things are made or where industrial processes take place.
factorya building or group of buildings where goods are made: a chocolate/cigarette/clothing factory
planta factory or place where power is produced or an industrial process takes place: a nuclear power plant a manufacturing plant
milla factory that produces a particular type of material: a cotton/paper/textile/woollen mill
works(often in compounds) a place where things are made or an industrial process takes place: a brickworks a steelworks Raw materials were carried to the works by barge.
yard(usually in compounds) an area of land used for building sth: a shipyard
workshopa room or building in which things are made or repaired using tools or machinery: a car repair workshop
foundrya factory where metal or glass is melted and made into different shapes or objects: an iron foundry
a car/chemical/munitions factory/plant
an engineering plant/works
to manage/run a factory/plant/mill/works/yard/workshop/foundry
to work in/at a factory/plant/mill/yard/workshop/foundry
factory/mill/foundry owners/managers/workers  
employment career profession occupation trade
These are all words for the work that sb does in return for payment, especially over a long period of time.
workthe job that sb does, especially in order to earn money: It's very difficult to find work at the moment.
employment(rather formal) work, especially when it is done to earn money; the state of being employed or the situation in which people have work: Only half the people here are in paid employment.
careerthe job or series of jobs that sb has in a particular area of work, usually involving more responsibility as time passes: He had a very distinguished career in the Foreign Office.
professiona type of job that needs special training or skill, especially one that needs a high level of education: He hopes to enter the medical profession.
The profession is all the people who work in a particular profession: the legal profession. The professions are the traditional jobs that need a high level of education and training, such as being a doctor or lawyer.
occupation(rather formal) a job or profession: Please state your name, age, and occupation.
tradea job, especially one that involves working with your hands and requires special training and skills: Carpentry is a highly skilled trade.
in/out of work/employment
(a) full-time/part-time work/employment/career/occupation
permanent/temporary work/employment
(a) well-paid work/employment/profession/occupation
(a) low-paid work/employment/occupation
to look for/seek/find work/employment/a career/an occupation
to get/obtain/give sb/offer sb/create/generate/provide work/employment 
Example Bank:
‘Where's Diane?’ ‘She's at work.’
A contraflow is in operation at the works near Junction 5.
A hundred grand for two days a week? Nice work if you can get it!
A love of landscape informs all his work.
All the construction work was carried out in 2001.
All these visitors make a lot of work for me.
Ambulance crews alternate between emergency and routine work.
An independent report has described some work practices in the industry as old-fashioned.
Beethoven composed his greatest works in the latter part of his life.
Big football matches make a lot of work for the police.
Children can learn good work habits at school.
During the college vacations he does casual work in the local hospital.
Employees must not make personal calls during work hours.
Engine maintenance is dirty work.
Full-time work is hard to find.
He did pioneering work on microbes.
He does mainly commissioned portrait works.
He got laid off, so now he's looking for work again.
He has done the grunt work= the hard, boring part of a task, sifting through thousands of official records.
He has some freelance work at the moment.
He hasn't been in regular work since he left school.
He preferred to make his money from honest work rather than from gambling.
He's been hard at work all morning.
He's been out of work since the factory closed.
He's doing a month's unpaid work experience with an engineering company.
He's got a bit of freelance work at the moment.
He's willing to do extra work to get the project finished on time.
Her book is still considered the definitive work on beetles.
Her boss told her she had to increase her work rate.
Her job is to manage the company's work flow.
Her latest novel is a work of genius.
Her portfolio includes published works in several magazines.
Her work appears at the Museum of Contemporary Art this summer.
Her work can be seen in most of the major European galleries.
Her work consists of drawing up and coordinating schedules.
High income tax can undermine work incentives.
His written work is the best in the class.
How much will the work cost?
How's the work going this morning?
I did the donkey work but I hired a professional builder for the tricky bits.
I did the donkey work= hard work requiring little skill but I hired a professional for the hard part.
I go to work by bus.
I had lots of work to do.
I have to do some work on the car before it'll be ready.
I met him through work.
I need to wear glasses for close work.
I really appreciate all your hard work.
I think I'd better try and get some work done.
I'm lucky— I love my work.
I've got lots of work to do today.
I've taken on more work than I have time to do.
In accepting the award, she mentioned the sterling work of her assistants.
Is this all your own work= did you do it without help from others?
It doesn't require skill— it's a matter of sheer hard work.
It was an interesting piece of work.
It will take a month to clear the backlog of work.
It's hard work trying to get him to do a few things for himself.
It's important to be happy in your work.
It's piece work, so how much you earn depends on how fast you can work.
Just before he was sixty, he decided to give up work.
Many unemployed people welcome the chance to do purposeful work, even if unpaid.
Mike made short work of fixing the engine.
Nice work, James! I'm impressed.
Over the next two years, the company is putting on the complete works of Brecht.
People are using file-sharing to steal copyrighted works.
People went about their daily work despite the war.
Picasso's mature works
Pressure of work forced him to cancel his holiday.
Sales reps meet up monthly to coordinate their work.
Scotland's biggest water treatment works
She has just returned to work after the birth of her child.
She is now looking for paid work outside the home.
She never does a stroke of work.
She stops work at the end of this month.
She's been off work with a bad back since July.
She's done a lot of work with disadvantaged children.
She's only allowed to do a little light work because of her bad arm.
She's put in a lot of work on the design.
She's studying the theme of death in the works of Beckett.
Small children make a lot of work for their parents.
Some mothers of young children choose not to go out to work.
Stop talking and get down to work.
That work can wait until tomorrow.
The art collection was his life's work.
The assistant manager supervises work on the factory floor.
The building is hated by some and considered a work of art by others.
The construction company has three work crews of five men each.
The drugs gang used children to do their dirty work for them.
The finished work will be on view in the city art gallery.
The gallery is staging a special exhibition of Monet's early works.
The hotel manager thanked the staff and told them to keep up the good work.
The hotel manager thanked the staff for their efforts so far and told them to keep up the good work.
The instructor's work load was becoming increasingly heavy.
The new president spent the first year undoing the work of his predecessor.
The opportunities will depend on your work experience.
The poorly designed bridge needs remedial work to make it safe.
The report is the joint work of an economist and a sociologist.
The research institute needs funds in order to carry on its valuable work.
The scandal was revealed after months of undercover work by journalists.
The show is the product of two years' intensive work.
The showroom has been designed so that people can see work in progress.
The smell is believed to have originated from the sewage works.
The town hall is exhibiting works by local artists.
The work comes in bursts according to the time of year.
The work represents a synthesis of the natural and the artificial.
The works at Bury turned out thousands of television sets a week.
The works will continue until the end of July.
These paintings are more abstract than her previous work.
They began work on the project last year.
They began work on the project towards the end of the year.
They discovered that his CV was a complete work of fiction.
They employ a couple of young men to do the heavy work.
They lost the work to a competitor.
They think that caring for children is women's work.
Through their tireless work, they proved his innocence.
To carry out accurate market research requires a huge amount of work.
We are planning to carry out major works on the site.
We get far too much work at this time of year.
We give grants to support the work of voluntary organizations.
We had a party at work.
We set to work on the outside of the house.
We're going to have some building work done on the house.
We're supposed to hand in this work tomorrow.
What does the work involve?
What time do you finish work?
What time does work start in the morning?
With so much unemployment, I'm lucky to be in work.
Work came to a complete halt in the summer.
Work came to a complete standstill when rumours of redundancies started to circulate.
Work on the project was halted.
Work produced on a computer tends to look more professional.
Work surfaces should be left clear and clean.
Work's going well at the moment.
a work by an unknown 18th-century writer
a work consisting of twelve small blank canvases
a work entitled ‘Forward Pass’
a work entitled ‘The Sacrifice’
classroom activities involving collaborative work between children
the collected works of Stephen King
the night shift at the works
‘Where's John?’ ‘He's still at work.’
All non-EU citizens need a work permit in order to get a job.
Any kind of work with kids would suit him fine.
Chopin's piano works
He loves his work as a stage manager.
He's been out of work for over a year.
I go to work at 8 o'clock.
I'm looking for any kind of construction work.
• It is a country where most women with young children are in paid work.

• It's very difficult to find work at the moment.

• Let's get to work.

• She earned her grades through sheer hard work.

• She's an artist whose work I really admire.

• She's been off work for three weeks.

• She's planning to return to work in September.

• State inspectors have cast doubt on claims of shoddy work on the new Bay Bridge.

• Students do work experience in local firms.

• The book is a detailed and thorough piece of work.

• The degree show gives students a chance to exhibit their work in central London.

• The film is based on an early work by Alan Moore.

• The new legislation concerns health and safety at work.

• We started work on the project in 2002.

• What kind of work experience do you have?

• What time do you knock off work tonight?

• When do you leave for work?

• Would you give up work if you won the lottery?

• works of fiction/literature


Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary

Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary - 4th Edition

work / wɜːk /   / wɝːk / noun (ACTIVITY)

A1 [ U ] an activity, such as a job, that a person uses physical or mental effort to do, usually for money:

I've got so much work to do .

Carrying heavy loads around all day is hard work.

What time do you start/finish work?

Adrian does most of the work around the house.

What sort of work are you experienced in?

She tends to wear quite smart clothes for work.

Roger's work involves a lot of travelling.

A2 [ U ] the material used by someone at work, or what they produce:

I'll have to take this work home with me and finish it there.

All the furniture is the work of residents here.

Word partners for work noun

do work • begin / finish / start work • look for / seek work • find / have work • get work done • excellent / good / poor / shoddy work • paid / unpaid / voluntary work


work / wɜːk /   / wɝːk / noun (PLACE)

A1 [ U ] a place where a person goes specially to do their job:

Do you have far to travel to work each day?

Thousands of people are seriously injured at work every year.

When does she leave for work?

Word partners for work noun

do work • begin / finish / start work • look for / seek work • find / have work • get work done • excellent / good / poor / shoddy work • paid / unpaid / voluntary work


work / wɜːk /   / wɝːk / noun [ C ] (CREATION)

B2 something created as a result of effort, especially a painting, book, or piece of music:

The museum has many works by Picasso as well as other modern painters.

the poetic works of Tagore

Word partners for work noun

do work • begin / finish / start work • look for / seek work • find / have work • get work done • excellent / good / poor / shoddy work • paid / unpaid / voluntary work


work / wɜːk /   / wɝːk / noun (EVERYTHING)

the works informal everything that you might want or expect to find in a particular situation:

The bridegroom was wearing a morning suit, gloves, top hat - the works.

mainly US And let me have two large pizzas with the works (= with all available types of food on top) .

Word partners for work noun

do work • begin / finish / start work • look for / seek work • find / have work • get work done • excellent / good / poor / shoddy work • paid / unpaid / voluntary work


work / wɜːk /   / wɝːk / noun (FACTORY)

works [ C , + sing/pl verb ] ( plural works ) an industrial building, especially one where a lot of people are employed:

a steel/car works

Word partners for work noun

do work • begin / finish / start work • look for / seek work • find / have work • get work done • excellent / good / poor / shoddy work • paid / unpaid / voluntary work


work / wɜːk /   / wɝːk / noun (MACHINE)

works [ plural ] the parts of a machine, especially those that move:

If you take the back off this clock, you can see its/the works.

Word partners for work noun

do work • begin / finish / start work • look for / seek work • find / have work • get work done • excellent / good / poor / shoddy work • paid / unpaid / voluntary work


work / wɜːk /   / wɝːk / noun [ U ] specialized (PHYSICS)

force multiplied by distance moved

Word partners for work noun

do work • begin / finish / start work • look for / seek work • find / have work • get work done • excellent / good / poor / shoddy work • paid / unpaid / voluntary work

© Cambridge University Press 2013

Collins Advanced Learner’s English Dictionary


 works, working, worked

 1) VERB People who work have a job, usually one which they are paid to do.
  [V prep/adv] Weiner works for the US Department of Transport...
  [V prep/adv] I started working in a recording studio...
  [V prep/adv] Where do you work?...
  [V as n] He worked as a bricklayer's mate...
  I want to work, I don't want to be on welfare.
 2) N-UNCOUNT: oft in/out of N People who have work or who are in work have a job, usually one which they are paid to do.
  Fewer and fewer people are in work...
  I was out of work at the time...
  She'd have enough money to provide for her children until she could find work...
  What kind of work do you do?
 3) VERB When you work, you do the things that you are paid or required to do in your job.
  I can't talk to you right now - I'm working...
  He was working at his desk...
  [V n] Some firms expect the guards to work twelve hours a day.
 4) N-UNCOUNT Your work consists of the things you are paid or required to do in your job.
  We're supposed to be running a business here. I've got work to do...
  I used to take work home, but I don't do it any more...
  There have been days when I have finished work at 2pm. image of teaching which highlighted the stressful and difficult aspects of the teacher's work.
 5) VERB When you work, you spend time and effort doing a task that needs to be done or trying to achieve something.
  [V prep] Linda spends all her time working on the garden...
  [V prep] While I was working on my letter the telephone rang...
  [V prep] Leonard was working at his German. His mistakes made her laugh...
  [V prep] The most important reason for coming to university is to work for a degree...
  [V prep] The government expressed hope that all the sides will work towards a political solution.
 Work is also a noun. There was a lot of work to do on their house... We knew we would have to organise the wedding but we hadn't appreciated how much work was involved... He said that the peace plan would be rejected because it needed more work.
 6) N-UNCOUNT: usu to/at N Work is the place where you do your job.
  Many people travel to work by car...
  She told her friends at work that she was trying to lose weight.
 7) N-UNCOUNT: oft poss/adj N Work is something which you produce as a result of an activity or as a result of doing your job.
  It can help to have an impartial third party look over your work...
  Tidiness in the workshop is really essential for producing good work...
  That's a beautiful piece of work. You should be proud of it.
 8) N-COUNT: usu with supp A work is something such as a painting, book, or piece of music produced by an artist, writer, or composer.
  In my opinion, this is Rembrandt's greatest work...
  Under his arm, there was a book which looked like the complete works of Shakespeare...
  The church has several valuable works of art.
 9) VERB If someone is working on a particular subject or question, they are studying or researching it.
  [V on n] Professor Bonnet has been working for many years on molecules of this type.
 Work is also a noun. Their work shows that one-year-olds are much more likely to have allergies if either parent smokes.
 10) VERB If you work with a person or a group of people, you spend time and effort trying to help them in some way.
  [V with/among n] She spent a period of time working with people dying of cancer...
  [V with/among n] He knew then that he wanted to work among the poor.
 N-UNCOUNT: with supp, usu poss N, N with/among n
 Work is also a noun. ...a highly respected priest who is noted for his work with the poor... She became involved in social and relief work among the refugees.
 11) VERB If a machine or piece of equipment works, it operates and performs a particular function.
  The pump doesn't work and we have no running water...
  Is the telephone working today?...
  [V prep/adv] Ned turned on the lanterns, which worked with batteries...
  [V prep/adv] How does the gun work?
 12) VERB If an idea, system, or way of doing something works, it is successful, effective, or satisfactory.
  95 per cent of these diets do not work...
  If lust is all there is to hold you together, the relationship will never work...
  I shouldn't have come, I knew it wouldn't work...
  [V adv] A methodical approach works best.
 13) VERB If a drug or medicine works, it produces a particular physical effect.
  I wake at 6am as the sleeping pill doesn't work for more than nine hours...
  [V prep/adv] The drug works by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain.
 14) VERB If something works in your favour, it helps you in some way. If something works to your disadvantage, it causes problems for you in some way.
  [V prep] One factor thought to have worked in his favour is his working class image...
  [V prep] This obviously works against the interests of the child.
 15) VERB If something or someone works their magic or works their charms on a person, they have a powerful positive effect on them.
  [V n on n] Nevertheless, she is always optimistic about the possibilities and can work her charm on the disenchanted...
  [V n] Our spirits rallied as the bitter-sweet alcohol worked its magic.
 16) VERB If your mind or brain is working, you are thinking about something or trying to solve a problem.
  My mind was working frantically, running over the events of the evening.
 17) VERB If you work on an assumption or idea, you act as if it were true or base other ideas on it, until you have more information.
  [V on n] We are working on the assumption that it was a gas explosion.
 18) VERB If you work a particular area or type of place, you travel around that area or work in those places as part of your job, for example trying to sell something there.
  [V n] Brand has been working the clubs and the pubs since 1986, developing her comedy act...
  [V n] This is the seventh year that he has worked the streets of Manhattan.
 19) VERB If you work someone, you make them spend time and effort doing a particular activity or job.
  [V n adv/prep] They're working me too hard. I'm too old for this...
  [V n adv/prep] They didn't take my father away, but kept him in the village and worked him to death. [Also V n]
 20) VERB If someone, often a politician or entertainer, works a crowd, they create a good relationship with the people in the crowd and get their support or interest.
  [V n] The Prime Minister has an ability to work a crowd - some might even suggest it is a kind of charm...
  [V n] He worked the room like a politician, gripping hands, and slapping backs.
 21) VERB When people work the land, they do all the tasks involved in growing crops.
  [V n] Farmers worked the fertile valleys.
 22) VERB When a mine is worked, minerals such as coal or gold are removed from it.
  [be V-ed] The mines had first been worked in 1849, when gold was discovered in California...
  [V n] Only an agreed number of men was allowed to work any given seam at any given time.
 23) VERB If you work a machine or piece of equipment, you use or control it.
  [V n] Many adults still depend on their children to work the video.
 24) VERB If something works into a particular state or condition, it gradually moves so that it is in that state or condition.
  [V adj] It's important to put a locking washer on that last nut, or it can work loose.
 25) VERB If you work a substance such as dough or clay, you keep pressing it to make it have a particular texture.
  [V n] Work the dough with the palm of your hand until it is very smooth...
  [V n prep/adv] Remove rind from the cheese and work it to a firm paste, with a fork.
 26) VERB If you work a material such as metal, leather, or stone, you cut, sew, or shape it in order to make something or to create a design.
  [V n] ...the machines needed to extract and work the raw stone.
  [V-ed] ...a long, cool tunnel of worked stone.
 27) VERB If you work with a particular substance or material, you use it in order to make something or to create a design.
  [V with/in n] He studied sculpture because he enjoyed working with clay.
 28) V-ERG If you work a part of your body, or if it works, you move it.
  [V n] Each position will work the muscles in a different way...
  Her mouth was working in her sleep.
 29) N-COUNT-COLL: usu n N, N n A works is a place where something is manufactured or where an industrial process is carried out. Works is used to refer to one or to more than one of these places.
  The steel works, one of the landmarks of Stoke-on-Trent, could be seen for miles.
  ...a recycling works.
  ...the works canteen.
 30) N-PLURAL: usu supp N Works are activities such as digging the ground or building on a large scale.
  ...six years of disruptive building works, road construction and urban development.
 31) N-SING: the N (emphasis) You can say the works after listing things such as someone's possessions or requirements, to emphasize that they possess or require everything you can think of in a particular category. [INFORMAL]
  Amazing place he's got there - squash courts, swimming pool, jacuzzi, the works.
  the lot
 32) → See also working
 33) PHRASE: usu v-link PHR If someone is at work they are doing their job or are busy doing a particular activity.
  The salvage teams are already hard at work trying to deal with the spilled oil...
  He is currently at work on a novel...
  Television cameras were invited in to film him at work.
 34) PHRASE: usu v-link PHR If a force or process is at work, it is having a particular influence or effect.
  The report suggested that the same trend was at work in politics...
  It is important to understand the powerful economic and social forces at work behind our own actions.
 35) PHRASE: V inflects, oft PHR for n, PHR to-inf If you say that you will have your work cut out to do something, you mean that it will be a very difficult task.
  The new administration has its work cut out for it. Creating jobs in this kind of environment is not going to be easy...
  He will have his work cut out to get into the team.
 36) PHRASE: usu n PHR, v-link PHR If something is in the works, it has already been planned or begun. [mainly AM]
  He said there were dozens of economic plans in the works...
  Nobody should be surprised by this. It's been in the works for some time.(in BRIT, usually use in the pipeline)
 37) PHRASE: V inflects, PHR -ing/n You can use work to talk about how easily or quickly a particular task is done. For example, if a person or thing makes short work of doing something or makes light work of it, they do it quickly and easily.
  An aerosol spray will make short work of painting awkward objects...
  This horse made light work of the cross-country course...
  Australia made hard work of beating them.
 38) PHRASE: usu v-link PHR If you describe someone as a nasty piece of work, you think they are very unpleasant or cruel. [mainly BRIT, INFORMAL]
  Underneath I think he's actually a rather nasty piece of work.
 39) PHRASE: V inflects, oft PHR prep, PHR -ing If you put someone to work or set them to work, you give them a job or task to do.
  By stimulating the economy, we're going to put people to work...
  Instead of sending them to prison, we have set them to work helping the lemon growers.
 40) PHRASE: V inflects, oft PHR on n If you get to work, go to work, or set to work on a job, task, or problem, you start doing it or dealing with it.
  He promised to get to work on the state's massive deficit...
  He returned to America where he set to work on a new novel.
 41) PHRASE: V inflects, PHR prep/adv If you work your way somewhere, you move or progress there slowly, and with a lot of effort or work.
  Rescuers were still working their way towards the trapped men...
  Many personnel managers started as secretaries or personnel assistants and worked their way up.
 42) CONVENTION (formulae) You can say to someone `nice work' or `good work' in order to thank or praise them for doing something well or quickly.
  Nice work, Matthew. I knew you could do it.
 43) to throw a spanner in the workssee spanner
  Phrasal Verbs:
  - work in
  - work into
  - work off
  - work out
  - work over
  - work up

Merriam-Webster's Advanced Learner's Dictionary



3work adj always used before a noun
1 : suitable to be worn while you are working
work clothes/boots
2 : used for work
• a clean work surface/table
3 : of or relating to a person's job
• What does your work schedule look like this week?
• a 12-hour work shift
• There is a place to list your work experience [=the jobs that you have had] on the application.
• My parents both had a very strong work ethic. [=a strong belief in the value and importance of work]
• She filed for a work permit. [=an official document that shows that a person is allowed to work]



2work noun, pl works
1 [noncount]
a : a job or activity that you do regularly especially in order to earn money
• How is work [=your job] going?
• She is trying to find work in publishing.
• How long have you been looking for work?
• He started work as a car salesman.
• I know him through work.
• When do you get off work? [=when do you stop working for the day?]
• She goes to the gym after work. [=after she has finished working]
• full-time/part-time work
• She plans to return to work [=start working her job again] in four months.
• What line of work is your wife in? = What does your wife do for work?
- see also life's work, social work
b : the place where you do your job
• She didn't come to work today.
• He left work a few minutes ago.
• She's not here right now. She's at work.
• We met at work.
• She went out with her friends from work.
2 [noncount]
a : the things that you do especially as part of your job
• Can you describe your work to the class?
• A large part of the work is responding to e-mails.
• administrative/secretarial work
• My brother did the electrical work on the house.
• After you finish your work, you can go outside and play.
• I have a lot of work to do.
b : things (such as papers, files, etc.) that you use to do your job
• His work cluttered his desk.
• She brought some work home with her from the office.
- see also donkey work, fieldwork, groundwork, homework, housework, legwork, paperwork, piecework, schoolwork
3 [noncount]
a : physical or mental effort that is used to perform a job or achieve a goal
• Getting my PhD took a lot of work, but it was worth it.
• Hard work is the key to success.
• Careful police work led to the murderer's capture.
• She hasn't done any work since she got here.
b : the process or activity of working
• He plans to start work on a new novel soon.
• The rain forced the crew to stop work on the building.
Work on the project is already underway. [=people have started working on the project]
• You need to get down to work [=start working] if you want to finish the assignment on time.
• She set to work [=started working] on the project immediately.
• She diligently went about her work. [=did her work]
• He was told to keep up the good work. [=to continue doing good work]
✦Phrases like good work, nice work, etc., are used to tell people that they have done something very well.
• “I finished the project ahead of schedule.” “Good work!”
4 a [noncount] : something that is produced or done by someone
• Some clever camera work gave the illusion that she was standing next to him.
• The cabinets are the work of a skilled carpenter. [=the cabinets were made by a skilled carpenter]
• The robberies were the work of [=were done by] the same gang.
b : something (such as a book, song, or painting) that is produced by a writer, musician, artist, etc.


• I love this painter's work.
• the author's entire body of work


• the complete/collected works of Charles Dickens
• literary works
• the painter's latest work
• The painting is a work in progress. [=it is not yet finished]
- see also artwork, handiwork, handwork
5 works [plural] : roads, bridges, dams, and similar structures : structures that are built by engineers
• engineering works from the 19th century
- see also public works, waterworks
6 works : a place where industrial labor is done : a factory


• He got a job at a cement/lead/steel works.


• The local steel works have shut down.
- see also gasworks
7 the works : the moving parts of a machine
the works of a clock
- sometimes used figuratively
• The office used to be very efficient, but the new regulations have gummed up the works. [=made the work more difficult and slow]
8 the works informal : everything
• They ordered a pizza with the works. [=with all the different toppings that were available]
• When we went to New York, we visited the museums, did some shopping, saw some shows—the whole works.
9 [noncount] physics : the energy that is used when a force is applied over a given distance
at work
1 a : actively doing work
• He kept us hard at work but paid us well.
• We're at work on the new project.
b : doing your regular job
• He has been out with a back injury, but he'll be back at work soon.
2 : having an effect or influence
• She felt that a higher power was at work.
have your work cut out for you
✦If you have your work cut out for you, the thing you need to do is very difficult, and you have to work very hard to achieve it.
• She knew she had her work cut out for her, but she was willing to do whatever it took to succeed.
in the works informal : in the process of being prepared, developed, or completed
• Her next movie is already in the works.
• Plans are in the works for building three new schools in the area.
in work Brit : having a regular job
• the percentage of people who are in work [=people who have jobs]
make short/quick/light work of
1 : to make it possible for (something) to be done quickly or easily
• This new snow shovel makes short work of clearing off the driveway.
✦The expression many hands make light work means that people can do things more quickly and easily when they work together.
2 : to finish (something) or defeat (someone) quickly and easily
• She made short work of her opponents.
• The kids made quick work of the french fries. [=the kids ate the french fries quickly]
• He made light work of the problem. [=he solved the problem quickly and easily]
out of work : without a regular job
• The factory closed and left/put 5,000 people out of work.
• He has been out of work since January. [=he has not had a job since January]
put/throw a spanner in the works
- see spanner
throw a wrench into the works
- see 1wrench

- see also piece of work