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em·​ploy im-ˈplȯi How to pronounce employ (audio)
employed; employing; employs

transitive verb

: to make use of (someone or something inactive)
employ a pen for sketching
: to use (something, such as time) advantageously
a job that employed her skills
: to use or engage the services of
: to provide with a job that pays wages or a salary
: to devote to or direct toward a particular activity or person
employed all her energies to help the poor


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em·​ploy im-ˈplȯi How to pronounce employ (audio)
ˈem-ˌplȯi How to pronounce employ (audio)
: the state of being employed
in the city's employ
Choose the Right Synonym for employ

use, employ, utilize mean to put into service especially to attain an end.

use implies availing oneself of something as a means or instrument to an end.

willing to use any means to achieve her ends

employ suggests the use of a person or thing that is available but idle, inactive, or disengaged.

looking for better ways to employ their skills

utilize may suggest the discovery of a new, profitable, or practical use for something.

an old wooden bucket utilized as a planter

Examples of employ in a Sentence

Verb The company is accused of employing questionable methods to obtain the contract. You should find better ways to employ your time. I had to employ a lawyer to review the contract. It's a small company, employing a staff of only 20. Noun while you're under our employ, you can't do outside work for our competitors
Recent Examples on the Web
Their top demands of the traditional studios and streaming giants that employ them were increased pay rates and better residual payments for streaming shows, plus new rules for how artificial intelligence can be used. Ryan Fonseca, Los Angeles Times, 13 May 2024 Lake has repeatedly employed these themes, in part to explain her 2022 gubernatorial loss. Ronald J. Hansen, The Arizona Republic, 12 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for employ 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'employ.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English emploien, emplien "to apply or devote (a thing to a purpose), apply (oneself) to a task, make use of, expend," borrowed from Anglo-French empleier, emploier, emplier "to entangle, fabricate, put to use, devote (oneself) to" (continental Middle French also "to make use of, apply, occupy [time], expend [money], use the services of [a person]"), going back to Latin implicāre "to fold about itself, entwine, entangle, involve, embroil" — more at implicate

Note: This verb does not appear in Middle English before the fifteenth century, and the predominance of the form with -oi-, retained in early Modern English, most likely reflects ongoing influence of continental French. — Latin implicāre gave rise to a verb meaning "to use, make use of" in Gallo-Romance (Old Occitan emplegar in addition to French empleier), Italian (impiegare) and Catalan (emplegar). Spanish emplear is an early borrowing from Old French. Compare imply.


borrowed from French emploi, going back to Middle French, "use, service," noun derivative of emploier "to put to use, employ entry 1"

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1679, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of employ was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near employ

Cite this Entry

“Employ.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/employ. Accessed 28 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
em·​ploy im-ˈplȯi How to pronounce employ (audio)
: to make use of : use
: to use or obtain the services of
employ a lawyer to draw up a will
: to provide with a job that pays wages or a salary
employ a staff of twenty
: to use or direct toward a particular goal
employ all of your energies to getting the job done


2 of 2 noun
: employment especially for wages or a salary
generous to people in their employ

More from Merriam-Webster on employ

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