There is a belief that "work is the essence of man" (literal translation), which means: being human without working is useless and gradually makes one unmotivated and even ruined.

I was wondering, when it comes to working (specifically in one's job), what do you call the feature or quality which a hard-working person possesses and a lazy one or someone who has gotten used to procrastinating or putting off their works lacks? Does the term "work essence" work, or is there any better term for that?

Once, I guess I read that the term "work ethic" was utilized in this sense, but according to the definitions, the term puts emphasis on observing moral values at work.

However, in accordance with some other dictionaries, it means: "the belief that work is morally good." [Source]

I also found that it can mean "the principle that hard work is intrinsically virtuous or worthy of reward." [Source]

That said, I could not find the quality which makes a man get to work.

I am wondering what is the quality which leads to working in English in case it exists?

  • I call it 'industriousness'. Mar 19, 2022 at 19:28
  • To me, it means similar to hard-work or diligence @MichaelHarvey. Apart from that, would it make sense to say s/he (has / lacks) industriousness?
    – A-friend
    Mar 19, 2022 at 19:51
  • Have you tried a thesaurus? The suggestion from @MichaelHarvey is good, and "motivation" is another simple word to describe what you mean. If your research doesn't turn up good alternatives, then please let us know why not. Mar 20, 2022 at 5:13

1 Answer 1


I have two suggestions for adjectives that express approval of somebody's attitude to work:

  • conscientious : putting a lot of effort into your work
  • diligent: careful and using a lot of effort
  • hardworking: always putting a lot of effort and care into your work

The first two have nouns to describe the property - conscientiousness and diligence: the third does not have an equivalent noun.

The antonym for conscientious is careless, and the antonym for diligent is lazy.

'work essence' : essence is an important quality of something. It does not relate to whether or not somebody has such a quality.

'work backbone': backbone is about courage, not diligence.

  • perhaps I could not get my point across @JavaLatte. We can call it something like the quality of industriousness or diligence or hard-working (which more or less mean the same thing and also lack my intended concept.) As I mentioned, that is a sort of "working essence" or "working backbone" which someone possesses or lacks. However, I am not confident whether the self-made terms "working essence / backbone" work properly or not. If it does not, then, what is the idiomatic term / expression to indicate that quality in English?
    – A-friend
    Mar 20, 2022 at 12:08
  • That is a pity. I hoped the term "work ethic" would work. The word "conscientiousness" is similar to one of the "work ethic's" meanings while it means: "the quality of wishing to do one's work or duty well and thoroughly." So it has nothing to do with the interior essence which a person might possess which will make them capable pf working. As for the adjective "hard-working" I used to think that "hard-work" is its respective noun.
    – A-friend
    Mar 20, 2022 at 12:13

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