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Definition of Work

(noun) Human activity which is productive, produces something of value, such as goods or services, which is done with the expectation of reward or remuneration (e.g., paycheck).

Examples of Work

  • farming
  • housework
  • laboring
  • massage therapy

Work Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: work

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /wUHRk/
  • British English – /wUHRk/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /wərk/
  • British English – /wəːk/

Usage Notes

  • Plural: works
  • Workers work in the workplace

Related Quotations

  • “The Puritan wanted to work in a calling; we are forced to do so. For when asceticism was carried out of monastic cells into everyday life, and began to dominate worldly morality, it did its part in building the tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order. This order is now bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production which today determine the lives of all individuals who are born into this mechanism, not only those directly concerned with economic acquisition, with irresistible force. Perhaps it will so determine them until the last ton of fossilized coal is burnt. In Baxter’s view the care for external goods should only lie on the shoulders of the ‘saint like a light cloak, which can be thrown aside at any moment’. But fate decreed that the cloak should become an iron cage” (Weber [1904–5] 1930:123).
  • “The service sector includes a mixed bag of occupations ranging from hairstylists, to insurance agents, to sales clerks, to computer programmers—all having to do in some way with processing either information or people or both. Instead of being a field hand on the farm or a machine operator in the factory, the typical worker in America is now a sales clerk in a department store” (McNamee and Miller 2013:127).
  • “While youth and vitality are highly valued commodities in a postindustrial society, life expectancies and prospects for good health are extended. Consequently, people can be expected to work longer if they choose. Moreover, with less emphasis on work and more on service and play, postindustrial societies may offer the elderly a vast array of meaningful social roles outside the world of work” (Thompson and Hickey 2012:339).

Related Video

Additional Information

Related Terms


McNamee, Stephen J., and Robert K. Miller, Jr. 2013. The Meritocracy Myth. 3rd ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Weber, Max. [1904–5] 1930. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Translated by T. Parsons. London: Allen and Unwin.

Note: Page number is from a reprinted edition, Routledge Classics (2001).

Works Consulted

Andersen, Margaret L., and Howard Francis Taylor. 2011. Sociology: The Essentials. 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Ferrante, Joan. 2011. Sociology: A Global Perspective. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Jary, David, and Julia Jary. 2000. Collins Dictionary of Sociology. 3rd ed. Glasgow, Scotland: HarperCollins.

Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).

Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Reference. (http://www.oxfordreference.com/).

Ravelli, Bruce, and Michelle Webber. 2016. Exploring Sociology: A Canadian Perspective. 3rd ed. Toronto: Pearson.

Ritzer, George, ed. 2007. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Scott, John, and Gordon Marshall. 2005. A Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Stewart, Paul, and Johan Zaaiman, eds. 2015. Sociology: A Concise South African Introduction. Cape Town: Juta.

Taylor & Francis. (N.d.) Routledge Handbooks Online. (https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/).

Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Turner, Bryan S., ed. 2006. The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).

Wiley. (N.d.) Wiley Online Library. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/).

Cite the Definition of work

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2018. “work.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved March 4, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/work/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

work. (2018). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/work/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2018. “work.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed March 4, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/work/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“work.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2018. Web. 4 Mar. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/work/>.