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

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Synonyms for furlough

Synonyms: Noun

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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Even with those reductions, Friday’s paycheck is the last one the company can afford, even at reduced furlough salaries, as The Verge previously reported. Sean O'kane, The Verge, "Faraday Future dealt potentially crippling blow while almost out of cash," 30 Nov. 2018 But in the meantime, Faraday Future had to resort to salary cuts, layoffs, and eventually a furlough for hundreds of employees that is still in effect. Sean O'kane, The Verge, "Trump administration criticizes Chinese company’s attempted takeover of Faraday Future," 21 Nov. 2018 Federal employees who were put on unpaid furloughs during the partial government shutdown will be paid for that time, under the legislation signed late Monday ending the shutdown. Eric Yoder, Washington Post, "Federal employees furloughed in shutdown to be paid," 23 Jan. 2018 Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said that more than 40 percent of inmates in the work-furlough program tested positive for drugs. Bayan Wang, azcentral, "MCSO: Nearly half of work-furloughed inmates failed drug test," 19 June 2018 Last month, a controversial hearing about whether Clyde Giddens, an elderly sick prisoner convicted of murder, should be released from prison on medical furlough also drew local media attention. Julia O'donoghue, NOLA.com, "Louisiana parole board wanted to prohibit recordings of hearings," 12 Apr. 2018 The concessions call for wage freezes, three furlough days, and increased copays for doctor appointments, prescription drugs and emergency room visits. Christopher Keating, courant.com, "State Employees To Receive Bonuses Soon As Part Of Agreement Between Unions, Malloy," 3 July 2018 At that meeting, school leaders had proposed instituting furlough days and retroactively cutting teachers' pay for the school year by five percent to reduce a projected $2.2 million spending deficit. Ricardo Cano, azcentral, "'We're asking for help': State will take over dysfunctional Murphy school district," 25 June 2018 Important to note is that the 2019 budget includes three days of unpaid furlough for exempt employees earning over $100,000. Anchorage Daily News, "Members of the Anchorage School Board respond to Donley opinion column on budget," 25 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The company laid off hundreds of employees, and furloughed hundreds more; multiple executives have resigned. Sean O'kane, The Verge, "Faraday Future says its main investor is ‘deliberately starving’ it into bankruptcy," 9 Nov. 2018 Over 1000 workers were furloughed in July of last year, and during their hiatus it was determined the plant would close for good with pickup assembly consolidated at GM's Fort Wayne, Ind., plant. David Kiley, Popular Mechanics, "GM Makes Money, Closes Factories," 15 Nov. 2010 During the last shutdown 800,000 people were furloughed, but there’s no official count of how many employees will be sent home without pay this time. Benjamin Hart, Daily Intelligencer, "Government-Shutdown Liveblog, Day Three," 22 Jan. 2018 An amendment was added saying government workers who are furloughed will get their back pay for this shutdown and any other funding lapse in 2018. Laura Litvan, Bloomberg.com, "Trump Signs Bill Ending Shutdown as Immigration Battle Looms," 23 Jan. 2018 The continuing resolution passed by Congress includes a measure that will grant back pay for federal workers who were furloughed at the start of the government shutdown at midnight on Saturday. Leada Gore, AL.com, "Furloughed feds will receive back pay," 23 Jan. 2018 Approximately 800,000 federal employees were furloughed. OregonLive.com, "Recent U.S. government shutdowns," 19 Jan. 2018 About 23,000 civilians were furloughed in San Antonio. Richard Webner, San Antonio Express-News, "USAA plans no-interest loans to military members in case of government shutdown," 19 Jan. 2018 Department operations will continue through the weekend and staffers will be instructed to report for work as usual on Monday to find out whether they have been furloughed. CBS News, "Government shutdown: Who is affected and what's next?," 20 Jan. 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.

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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


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


see furlough entry 1

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Statistics for furlough

Last Updated

15 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for furlough

The first known use of furlough was in 1631

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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

: a period of time when an employee is told not to come to work and is not paid

: 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)

: to put (a worker) on furlough


fur·​lough | \ˈfər-lō \

Kids Definition of furlough

: a leave of absence from duty

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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).


a nest or breeding place

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