Labor vs. Labour

What's the Difference?

Labor and Labour are two different spellings of the same word, which refers to the physical or mental effort exerted by individuals in order to produce goods or services. The difference in spelling arises due to regional variations in English language usage. "Labor" is the preferred spelling in American English, while "Labour" is commonly used in British English and other Commonwealth countries. Despite the spelling discrepancy, both terms convey the same meaning and are used interchangeably to describe the act of work.


SpellingCorrect (US English)Correct (UK English)
MeaningWork, employmentWork, employment
UsageCommonly used in American EnglishCommonly used in British English
EtymologyDerived from Middle English "labour"Derived from Old French "labour"
Alternate FormsN/ALabor (American English)
Examples"He works hard for his labor.""She is skilled in manual labour."

Further Detail


When it comes to the English language, there are often variations in spelling and word usage between different regions. One such example is the difference between "labor" and "labour." While both words refer to the same concept of work or employment, the spelling variation is primarily seen between American English and British English. In this article, we will explore the attributes of labor and labour, highlighting their similarities and differences.

Etymology and Historical Context

The word "labor" originated from the Latin word "laborare," meaning "to work." It entered the English language in the late 14th century and has been widely used in American English. On the other hand, "labour" is the British English spelling, which can be traced back to the Old French word "labourer." The spelling variation between the two words emerged due to the influence of different linguistic traditions and historical developments in the respective regions.

Spelling and Pronunciation

One of the most noticeable differences between "labor" and "labour" lies in their spelling. While "labor" is the preferred spelling in American English, "labour" is commonly used in British English and other Commonwealth countries. The pronunciation of both words, however, remains the same, with the stress falling on the first syllable in both cases.

Usage and Context

Despite the spelling variation, the usage and context of "labor" and "labour" are largely interchangeable. Both words refer to the physical or mental effort exerted by individuals in the process of work. They can be used to describe various forms of employment, including manual labor, skilled labor, or even intellectual labor. Whether you use "labor" or "labour" depends on the regional conventions and the specific style guide you are following.

Legal and Political Implications

In some cases, the spelling variation between "labor" and "labour" can have legal and political implications. For instance, in countries where British English is the official language, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, or Australia, the word "labour" is often used in legal documents, labor laws, and political discussions. On the other hand, in countries like the United States, where American English is prevalent, the spelling "labor" is more commonly used in similar contexts.

Examples in Literature and Media

Throughout history, both "labor" and "labour" have been extensively used in literature and media. Classic works of literature from American authors, such as "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck, often use the spelling "labor" to depict the struggles of workers during the Great Depression. In contrast, British authors like George Orwell frequently employ the spelling "labour" in their writings. These examples showcase how the spelling variation can reflect the cultural and linguistic background of the author.

Global Impact and Standardization Efforts

With the increasing globalization and interconnectedness of the world, there have been efforts to standardize certain aspects of the English language. Organizations like the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) aim to establish consistent spelling and terminology across different regions. However, the spelling variation between "labor" and "labour" remains largely unaffected by these standardization efforts, as they are deeply rooted in the historical and cultural contexts of the respective regions.


In conclusion, the difference between "labor" and "labour" primarily lies in their spelling, with "labor" being the preferred form in American English and "labour" in British English. However, both words share the same meaning and can be used interchangeably in most contexts. The spelling variation reflects the historical and cultural development of the English language in different regions. Whether you choose to use "labor" or "labour" depends on your audience, regional conventions, and the specific style guide you are following. Regardless of the spelling, both words represent the fundamental concept of work and employment.

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