Is It Labor or Labour? | Meaning, Spelling & Examples

UK vs US updated on  January 9, 2024 4 min read
Labor and labour are two ways of spelling the same noun, which refers to (physical) work or the process of giving birth. It can also be used as a verb meaning “make a great effort” or “endlessly discuss something.” The spelling depends on the type of English you use.

  • In American English, “labor” is correct.
  • In British English, “labour” is standard.
It’s important to choose one spelling and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

Examples: Labor or labour in a sentence
A week's labor/labour should be enough to finish up the renovation.
Maddie knew she was in labor/labour when the contractions began to speed up.
Cleo and I labored/laboured to fix the broken wall.
Stop laboring/labouring the point! You're driving me crazy!

Labor or labour is often preceded by an adjective (e.g., “manual labor/labour,” “hard labor/labour”).


Labored and laboring vs laboured and labouring

The same spelling difference applies to related forms of the word, such as the simple past tense or adjective labored or laboured and the present participle laboring or labouring.

  • In American English, "labored" and "laboring" are correct.
  • In British English, “laboured" and "labouring” are standard.
Examples: Labored/laboured and laboring/labouring in a sentence
Are you feeling all right? You're breathing seems labored/laboured.
I've been laboring/labouring for forty hours and the baby still isn't born.

Exception 1: Labor or Labour Party

In cases where labor or labour is used as part of the name of a political party or other organization, it functions as a proper noun, which means that, whatever variant of English you’re writing in, you should use the spelling that is used by the party itself.

  • If you’re referring to the British Labour Party, the correct spelling is Labour (with a “u”).
  • If you’re referring to the Australian Labor Party, the correct spelling is Labor (no “u”). This is unusual because the word is normally spelled “labour” in Australian English, but it’s the official name used by the party and should be written that way.
Examples: Labor or Labour Party
UK: Did you vote Labour this year?
Australia: Did you vote Labor this year?

Exception 2: Laborious

Although labour is the correct spelling in British English, the related adjective laborious (not “labourious”) is the only correct form for both American and British English. This also applies to the adverb laboriously. They mean “tedious” and “in a way that takes a lot of effort.”


Examples: Laborious and laboriously in a sentence
My dad gave a laborious speech after I came home two hours late.
Matt laboriously transcribed the handwritten manuscript into a digital format.

Main differences between American and British English

American and British English are very similar, but there are a few main differences in spelling. Five important differences are:

Difference

Rule

Examples

-or vs -our

In American English, many Latin-derived words end in -or.

In British English, these same words end in -our.

Behavior or behaviour
Labor or labour
Favor or favour
Favorite or favourite
Color or colour
Honor or honour

-er vs -re

In American English, some French, Latin, or Greek words end in -er.

In British English, these same words end in -re.

Theater or theatre
Center or centre
Meter or metre
Liter or litre
Saber or sabre
Fiber or fibre

-ize vs -ise

In American English, many Greek-derived words end in -yze or -ize.

In British English, these words end in -yse or -ise.

Realize or realise
Recognize or recognise
Analyze or analyse
Organisation or organization
Minimize or minimise
Finalize or finalise

-ed vs -t

In American English, most verbs are regular and form their past tense with the suffix -ed.

In British English, some of these verbs are irregular and form their past tense with the suffix -t.

Learned or learnt
Burned or burnt
Kneeled or knelt
Dreamed or dreamt
Smelled or smelt
Spelled or spelt

Single vs double consonant

In American English, many words are spelled with a single consonant.

In British English, these same words are spelled with a double consonant.

Modeling or modelling
Traveling or travelling
Canceled or cancelled
Labeled or labelled
Buses or busses
Focused or focussed

Do you want to know more about common mistakes, commonly confused words, rhetorical devices, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.


Common mistakes

Commonly confused words

Rhetoric

Hers or her’s

Aid vs aide

Malapropism

Truely or truly

Advice vs advise

Pun

Beck and call or beckon call

Council vs counsel

Extended metaphor

Jist or gist

Former vs latter

Simile

Despite of

Breathe vs breath

Dramatic irony


Frequently asked questions about labor or labour

Is it child labour or labor?

Labor and labour are two spellings of the same noun. The spelling depends on the type of English.

  • In American English, you write “child labor.”
  • In British English, you write “child labour.”

The same difference applies to similar words, such as “behaviour or behavior,” “honor or honour,” “color or colour,” “favorite or favourite,” “favor or favour,” and “humor or humour.”

It's important to choose one type of English and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

Is it Labour Day or Labor Day?

Labor and labour are two spellings of the same noun. The spelling depends on the type of English.

  • In American English, “Labor Day” is correct.
  • In British English, “Labour Day” is standard.

The same difference applies to similar words, such as “behaviour or behavior,” “honor or honour,” “color or colour,” “favorite or favourite,” “favor or favour,” and “humor or humour.”

It's important to choose one type of English and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

Is it manual labour or manual labor?

Labor and labour are two spellings of the same noun. The spelling depends on the type of English.

  • In American English, “manual labor” is standard.
  • In British English, “manual labour” is correct.

The same difference applies to similar words, such as “behaviour or behavior,” “honor or honour,” “color or colour,” “favorite or favourite,” “favor or favour,” and “humor or humour.”

It's important to choose one type of English and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

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Julia Merkus

Julia has master's degrees in Linguistics and Language and speech pathology. Her expertise lies in grammar, language and speech disorders, foreign language learning, and child language acquisition.

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