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toil for (someone or something)

1. To work continually and very strenuously for the benefit of someone else. I spent the summer toiling for my neighbor in order to save up for a new bike. I decided to start my own business so I wouldn't have to spend another day toiling for anyone else.
2. To work continually and very strenuously in order to accomplish or achieve something. The marginalized group has spent the last 20 years toiling for equality. Congratulations, everyone. We've all toiled long and hard for this day.
3. To work continually and very strenuously in return for something. The new farmhand toils for a place to sleep at night and three meals a day. He won't accept payment of any kind. I'm done toiling for just seven bucks an hour at this lousy restaurant.
See also: for, toil

toil over (someone or something)

1. To work continually, diligently, and strenuously to complete something. I've been toiling over this project for weeks now, and it still feels like it's never going to be done.
2. Of a surgeon, to spend long, continuous hours operating on a patient. Our team toiled over him for nearly six hours, but in the end we weren't able to save his life. I'm so sorry.
See also: over, toil

toil up (something)

To climb something with great, prolonged, and continuous effort. We toiled up the mountain, hoping to reach the peak before noon. The crew will have to park down below and toil up the hill with all of their equipment.
See also: toil, up
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

toil for someone

1. to work on behalf of someone or for someone's benefit. I don't mind toiling for her as long as she thanks me. I don't know why I toil for you. You are totally ungrateful.
2. to do someone else's work. I don't know why I should have to toil for you. Do your own work! I won't toil for him. He can do his own work.
See also: for, toil

toil for something

1. to work toward a particular goal or ideal. I am willing to toil for something I believe in. She spent the afternoon toiling for her favorite charity.
2. to work for a certain rate of pay. It's hard to toil for slave's wages. Do you expect me to toil endlessly for such low pay?
See also: for, toil

toil over someone or something

to work hard on someone or something. The doctors toiled over the patient for hours. Ken toiled over his model plane well into the night.
See also: over, toil

toil up something

to work hard to climb something steep. The hikers toiled up the slope slowly. As the bus toiled up the hill, we worried that the engine might be overheating.
See also: toil, up
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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References in classic literature ?
And when his visitors had bidden him farewell, the good man turned patiently to his toil again.
The tears gushed into the eyes of Laurence, and he acknowledged that Eliot had not toiled in vain.
"Laurence," said his Grandfather, "if ever you should doubt that man is capable of disinterested zeal for his brother's good, then remember how the apostle Eliot toiled. And if you should feel your own self-interest pressing upon your heart too closely, then think of Eliot's Indian Bible.
Twelve hours a day, six in the twilight, and six in the dark, they toiled on the trail.
And while the Elves wept, he told them how patiently she had toiled, how her fadeless love had made the dark cell bright and beautiful.
These and many other things he told them; for little Violet had won the love of many of the Frost-Spirits, and even when they killed the flowers she had toiled so hard to bring to life and beauty, she spoke gentle words to them, and sought to teach them how beautiful is love.
Therefore are we sad, dear Primrose, for she has toiled and cared for us, and we can do nothing to help or advise her now."
They give to us their all; ought we not to toil unceasingly, that they may bloom in peace within their quiet homes?
For four hours Adrienne sat bending over her toil, deeply engrossed in the occupation, and flattering herself with the fruits of her success.
Still Adrienne thought herself the obliged party, in times as critical as those which then hung over France, in being permitted to toil for a sum that would barely supply a grisette, accustomed all her life to privations, with the coarsest necessaries.
Then followed the frugal breakfast, when her commoner toil for the milliner succeeded.
'Yes, they are true, but they have been that way always.' Or you say, 'Maybe it will come, but not in my time--it will not help me.' And so you return to your daily round of toil, you go back to be ground up for profits in the world-wide mill of economic might!
On cloudy and inclement days, therefore, he sat with his head upon his hands, muffling, as it were, his sensitive brain in a mist of indefinite musings, for it was a relief to escape from the sharp distinctness with which he was compelled to shape out his thoughts during his nightly toil.
And what a help and strength would it be to him in his lonely toil if he could gain the sympathy of the only being whom he loved!
They were full of bright conceptions, which gleamed through his intellectual world as the butterflies gleamed through the outward atmosphere, and were real to him, for the instant, without the toil, and perplexity, and many disappointments of attempting to make them visible to the sensual eye.