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From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Workhouse \Work"house`\, n.; pl. Workhouses. [AS. weorch[=u]s.] [1913 Webster] 1. A house where any manufacture is carried on; a workshop. [1913 Webster] 2. A house in which idle and vicious persons are confined to labor. [1913 Webster] 3. A house where the town poor are maintained at public expense, and provided with labor; a poorhouse. [1913 Webster]