fur·​lough | \ ˈfər-(ˌ)lō \

Definition of furlough

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a leave of absence granted to a governmental or institutional employee (such as a soldier or civil servant) The Army began furloughs in September as so-called 'sanity checks' for soldiers whose tour has stretched to nearly a year.— Jenny Deam also : a document authorizing such a leave of absence
2 : a temporary leave from work that is not paid and is often for a set period of time One possible way to avoid layoffs is through furloughs—making workers take an unpaid leave of absence … .— Paul B. Brown
3 : a set period of time when a prisoner is allowed to leave a prison Those probation officers are then able to monitor criminals serving their sentences in work camps or on furlough rather than in jail as a way of relieving overcrowding.— Richard Willing


furloughed; furloughing; furloughs

Definition of furlough (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to grant a leave of absence or furlough to (someone) a soldier being furloughed a furloughed prisoner
2 : to put (a worker) on furlough : to lay off (a worker) for usually a brief or temporary period … other airlines are placing pressure on the unionized pilots to take large salary cuts—at least those pilots who haven't already been "furloughed" (the word pilots use instead of the more plebeian "laid off").— George Hopkins Although no one could supply exact figures, sources in Washington, D.C., said nearly 500,000 federal workers were furloughed for all or part of Thursday. In the Los Angeles-Long Beach area about 11,000 of the 40,000 federal workers were sent home because of the operating fund impasse in Congress.— Jerry Belcher

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for furlough

Synonyms: Noun

ax (or axe), discharge, dismissal, layoff, redundancy [chiefly British]

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of furlough in a Sentence


Each employee will have a one-day furlough every month. the landscaping company usually has to put most of its personnel on furlough during the extremely slow winter months


The company will consider furloughing a small number of workers.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Lockheed Martin warned in a regulatory filing that furloughs threaten the launch of a commercial satellite for a Saudi Arabian customer, as well as some other SpaceX launches. Gabriel T. Rubin, WSJ, "Shutdown Hits Industries Nationwide," 21 Jan. 2019 Scientific attempts to correct for the changing location of the North Magnetic Pole have been put on halt due to the U.S. government's partial furlough. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "The Government Shutdown Is Messing with North," 15 Jan. 2019 The deal, reached after a bipartisan group of senators pushed their leaders to come to terms, enables hundreds of thousands of federal employees who had been facing furloughs to go back to work. NBC News, "First Read’s Morning Clips: Here’s how the shutdown ended," 23 Jan. 2018 The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s acting chairwoman said the standoff had forced the agency to furlough agents who inspect imports for unsafe products, leaving only about 20 of its 550 employees at work. Vivian Salama, WSJ, "Senate Leaders Push Votes on Dueling Bills to End Shutdown," 22 Jan. 2019 For many women in public service who are on furlough and now looking at not getting that vital paycheck, the uncertainty can be agonizing. Celeste Katz, Glamour, "These Women Are Still Waiting for Their Paycheck Because of the Government Shutdown," 11 Jan. 2019 Mortgage approvals can be delayed by furloughs at the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Housing Administration. Time, "This Is What Actually Shuts Down During a Government Shutdown," 11 Jan. 2018 About 380,000 federal employees are being forced to take unpaid leave, also known as furlough, while another 420,000 workers deemed essential are working without pay until funding is restored. Kristina Peterson, WSJ, "House Passes Spending Package in Bid to End Shutdown," 4 Jan. 2019 About 380,000 employees would be forced to take unpaid leave, also known as furlough, while other workers, deemed essential employees, would work without pay. Jim Carlton, WSJ, "Government Shutdown Scuppers Holiday Plans, Threatens to Delay Paychecks," 25 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

But because the employees who work at the Department of Justice who release the funds were furloughed, the checks couldn’t go out. Bryce Covert, Glamour, "“At What Point Do We Have to Start Shutting Down?” Domestic Violence Shelters Struggle to Survive the Government Shutdown," 14 Jan. 2019 President Donald Trump issued an executive order on Friday freezing federal workers’ salaries for 2019, coming as hundreds of thousands of them are either furloughed or working without pay because of a political standoff over government funding. Amanda Sakuma, Vox, "Trump orders federal pay freeze for 2019," 30 Dec. 2018 All 30 of the inspectors who operate that system have been furloughed, Ms. Buerkle said. Heidi Vogt, WSJ, "Shutdown Sidelines Safety Inspections of Imported Products," 22 Jan. 2019 These are people who are now furloughed and can collect unemployment insurance or take a second job. . Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "The Government Shutdown Is Now Endangering the Food We Eat," 10 Jan. 2019 Most of the agency’s nearly 14,500 employees will be furloughed after that money runs out. Mark Landler, New York Times, "Open, Closed or Something in Between: What a Shutdown Looks Like," 20 Jan. 2018 The Justice Department’s civil lawyers are typically furloughed during a shutdown, though they are notably allowed to continue working on a case if the court orders it. Dylan Scott, Vox, "Why the government shutdown is good legal news for Trump," 27 Dec. 2018 But, like for the nearly one million federal employees working without pay or being furloughed, the partial government shutdown has necessitated a change of plans. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Donald Trump and Melania Won't Spend Christmas at Mar-a-Lago for the First Time in Years," 24 Dec. 2018 These new court actions come at a precarious time for Faraday Future, which has laid off and furloughed hundreds of employees over the last two months. Sean O'kane, The Verge, "Federal court freezes Faraday Future CEO’s ownership stake, California mansions," 14 Dec. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'furlough.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of furlough


1631, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1781, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for furlough

Noun and Verb

Dutch verlof, literally, permission, from Middle Dutch, from ver- for- + lof permission; akin to Middle High German loube permission — more at for-, leave

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about furlough

Dictionary Entries near furlough








Statistics for furlough

Last Updated

10 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for furlough

The first known use of furlough was in 1631

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for furlough



English Language Learners Definition of furlough

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a period of time when a soldier is allowed to leave the place where he or she is stationed
US : a period of time when an employee is told not to come to work and is not paid
US : a period of time when a prisoner is allowed to leave prison



English Language Learners Definition of furlough (Entry 2 of 2)

: to grant a furlough to (someone)
US : to put (a worker) on furlough


fur·​lough | \ ˈfər-lō \

Kids Definition of furlough

: a leave of absence from duty

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on furlough

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for furlough

Spanish Central: Translation of furlough

Nglish: Translation of furlough for Spanish Speakers

Comments on furlough

What made you want to look up furlough? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


esteemed in general opinion

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What did you just call me?! A Quiz

  • rows-of-various-emoji
  • If a member of the audience describes your speech as bombastic, does that person mean it is:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!