Etymology
Advertisement
work (n.)

Old English weorc, worc "something done, discrete act performed by someone, action (whether voluntary or required), proceeding, business; that which is made or manufactured, products of labor," also "physical labor, toil; skilled trade, craft, or occupation; opportunity of expending labor in some useful or remunerative way;" also "military fortification," from Proto-Germanic *werka- "work" (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Dutch werk, Old Norse verk, Middle Dutch warc, Old High German werah, German Werk, Gothic gawaurki), from PIE *werg-o-, suffixed form of root *werg- "to do."

Meaning "physical effort, exertion" is from c. 1200; meaning "scholarly labor" or its productions is from c. 1200; meaning "artistic labor" or its productions is from c. 1200. Meaning "labor as a measurable commodity" is from c. 1300. Meaning "embroidery, stitchery, needlepoint" is from late 14c.

Work of art attested by 1774 as "artistic creation," earlier (1728) "artifice, production of humans (as opposed to nature)." Work ethic recorded from 1959. To be out of work "unemployed" is from 1590s. To make clean work of is from c. 1300; to make short work of is from 1640s.

Proverbial expression many hands make light work is from c. 1300. To have (one's) work cut out for one is from 1610s; to have it prepared and prescribed, hence, to have all one can handle. Work in progress is from 1930 in a general sense, earlier as a specific term in accountancy and parliamentary procedure.

Work is less boring than amusing oneself. [Baudelaire, "Mon Coeur mis a nu," 1862]
Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions. [attributed to Mark Twain]
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
force (v.)
c. 1300, forcen, also forsen, "exert force upon (an adversary)," from Old French forcer "conquer by violence," from force "strength, power, compulsion" (see force (n.)). From early 14c. as "to violate (a woman), to rape." From c. 1400 as "compel by force, constrain (someone to do something)." Meaning "bring about by unusual effort" is from 1550s. Card-playing sense is from 1746 (whist). Related: Forced; forcing.
Related entries & more 
force (n.)
c. 1300, "physical strength," from Old French force "force, strength; courage, fortitude; violence, power, compulsion" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *fortia (source also of Old Spanish forzo, Spanish fuerza, Italian forza), noun use of neuter plural of Latin fortis "strong, mighty; firm, steadfast; brave, bold" (see fort).

Meanings "power to convince the mind" and "power exerted against will or consent" are from mid-14c. Meaning "body of armed men, a military organization" first recorded late 14c. (also in Old French). Physics sense is from 1660s; force field attested by 1920. Related: Forces.
Related entries & more 
work (v.)

a fusion of Old English wyrcan (past tense worhte, past participle geworht) "prepare, perform, do, make, construct, produce; strive after" (from Proto-Germanic *wurkjanan); and Old English wircan (Mercian) "to operate, function, set in motion," a secondary verb formed relatively late from Proto-Germanic noun *werkan (see work (n.)).

Sense of "perform physical labor" was in Old English, as was sense "ply one's trade" and "exert creative power, be a creator." Transitive sense "manipulate (physical substances) into a desired state or form" was in Old English. Meaning "have the expected or desired effect" is from late 14c. In Middle English also "perform sexually" (mid-13c.). Related: Worked (15c.); wrought; working.

To work in "insert, introduce or intermix," as one material with another, is by 1670s; hence the figurative sense "cause to enter or penetrate by repeated efforts." To work up (transitive) "bring into some state or condition" is by 1590s of material things, 1690s of immaterial things; hence "bring by labor or special effort to a higher state or condition" (1660s). The meaning "excite, stir up, raise, rouse" is from c. 1600. To work over "beat up, thrash" is from 1927. To work against "attempt to subvert" is from late 14c.

To work out "bring about or procure (a result) by continued labor or effort" is by 1530s. As "bring to a fuller or finished state, elaborate, develop," by 1821. Meaning "to solve, calculate the solution to" a problem or question is by 1848. Intransitive sense "make its way out" is from c. 1600; the sense of "succeed" is attested by 1909. Sense of "exhaust (a mine, etc.) by working it" is from 1540s. The pugilistic sense of "box for practice (rather than in a contest) is by 1927, hence the general sense of "practice, rehearse" (1929) and that of "take exercise" (by 1948).

Related entries & more 
task-force (n.)
1941, originally military; see task (n.) + force (n.).
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
make-work 

1913 (adj.); 1937 (n.), "busy-work, activity of no value," American English, from the verbal expression to make work (see make (v.) + work (n.)).

A big fire devoured a street; "It will make work," I heard my father say; a ship was lost at sea laden with silk, and leather, and cloth; "It will make work," said my father; a reservoir broke jail, and swept the heart of the town away. "It will make work," my mother said; so all human calamities were softened blessings to me; they made "work," and work made wages, and wages made bread and potatoes, and clothes for me. ["The Radical Review," Chicago, Sept. 15, 1883]
Related entries & more 
air force (n.)
1917, from air (n.1) + force (n.); first attested with creation of the Royal Air Force. There was no United States Air Force until after World War II. The Air Corps was an arm of the U.S. Army. In 1942, the War Department reorganized it and renamed it Army Air Forces. The National Security Act of 1947 created the Department of the Air Force, headed by a Secretary of the Air Force, and the U.S.A.F.
Related entries & more 
guess-work (n.)
also guesswork, "what is done by or due to guess," 1725, from guess (v.) + work (n.).
Related entries & more 
busy-work (n.)

also busy work, "work done simply to keep one occupied," 1884, American English, originally in primary education, from busy (adj.) + work (n.).

How to keep little children busy while not reciting, is the despair of many a teacher. Miss Goodyear solves the problem by introducing a modification of the kindergarten occupations, which she denominates "busy work." Tablets, rings, slats, weaving, and the like, drawing, writing, all are laid under contribution. In this way the interest of the little folk is aroused and directed. ["Annual Report of the State Superintendent of Education, of the State of South Carolina," 1886]
Related entries & more 
night-work (n.)

"work done during the night," 1590s, from night + work (n.). Old English had nihtweorc.

Related entries & more