Labor vs. Labour | Definition, Spelling & Examples

Labor and labour are different spellings of the noun meaning “work,” “a group of manual workers,” and “the process of giving birth” and the verb meaning “work hard” and “discuss something at unnecessary length.”

The spelling varies depending on whether you’re using UK or US English:

  • In US English, “labor” (no “u”) is standard.
  • In UK English, “labour” (with a “u”) is the correct spelling.
    Examples: Labor and labour in a sentence
    The prisoner was sentenced to hard labor/labour.

    The woman was in labor/labour for a full day before her child was born.

    The workers labored/laboured to repair the damaged bridge.

    You don’t need to labor/labour the point! I know I was wrong.

    Many words that end in “-our” in UK English end in “-or” in US English. Some other common examples include “behaviour/behavior,” “colour/color,” “favour/favor,” and “honour/honor.”

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    Other forms of the word

    The same spelling distinction carries over to related words, such as “labored/laboured” and “laboring/labouring.”

    • In US English, “labored” and “laboring” (no “u”) are standard.
    • In UK English, “laboured” and “labouring” (with a “u”) are correct.
        Examples: Other forms of labor and labour in a sentence
        The old man labored/laboured to keep his garden beautiful.

        You’re laboring/labouring the obvious!

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        Exception: Laborious

        While “labour” is the standard spelling in UK English, the related adjective laborious (meaning “tedious”) is used in both US and UK English. This is also the case for the adverb laboriously. Spelling these words with “-our-” is never correct.

            Example: Laborious in a sentence
            The principal gave a laborious speech on graduation day.

            Exception: Labour as a proper noun

            In the UK, “Labour” is used as a proper noun to refer to the UK Labour Party.

                Example: Labour as a proper noun
                Michael is going to vote for Labour in the upcoming election.

                Other interesting language articles

                If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, common mistakes, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.


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                Eoghan Ryan

                Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.