fur·​lough | \ ˈfər-(ˌ)lō How to pronounce furlough (audio) \

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

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Examples of furlough in a Sentence

Noun 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 Verb The company will consider furloughing a small number of workers.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Earlier in January, Nissan made its U.S. employees take two unpaid furlough days. Washington Post, "Nissan to offer severance packages to older US workers," 29 Jan. 2020 The furlough impacts full-time and part-time staff, said Monique Musick, UA communications and marketing manager who is also impacted by the furlough. Tegan Hanlon, Anchorage Daily News, "Furlough notices go out to University of Alaska employees in the wake of governor’s veto," 2 July 2019 Late in his term of service, he was pulled from duty on an emergency furlough to cook for President Charles de Gaulle, who had stopped in Auch for lunch while making a political tour of the southwest. New York Times, "André Daguin Dies at 84; Chef Made Gascony (and a Dish) Famous," 3 Dec. 2019 And certainly not hundreds of thousands of federal workers who were forced to go on furlough or work without pay during the last shutdown, causing missed mortgage payments and other financial hardships. Michael Collins, USA TODAY, "1 year after historic shutdown, Congress and White House fund government amid impeachment," 22 Dec. 2019 While Boeing is not planning to lay off any of the 12,000 workers building the Max in Renton, employees at some suppliers will likely face salary cuts, furloughs or layoffs. David Yaffe-bellany, New York Times, "After Boeing Halts Max Production, Suppliers Wait for Fallout," 18 Dec. 2019 Those suppliers can either keep employees on staff indefinitely, in the hope that Boeing’s production lines will resume quickly, or furlough employees. Washington Post, "Boeing 737 Max production halt expected to ripple through global supplier base," 17 Dec. 2019 No furloughs or layoffs are planned for the 12,000 workers at the Seattle-area plant where 737 Max jets are built, said the person, who asked not to be named because the details are still private. Fortune, "Boeing Will Pause 737 Max Output in January; No Layoffs Planned," 16 Dec. 2019 The 90-year-old company had shut down its Kerrville headquarters and plant on Nov 12, putting all of its 60 employees on furlough. Randy Diamond, ExpressNews.com, "Aircraft maker Mooney is back in business in Kerrville," 2 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb So everyone gets a happy ending except for BoJack, who is only furloughed for the wedding and will have to go back to prison immediately afterward. Judy Berman, Time, "How BoJack Horseman's Brilliant Series Finale Subverts the Typical Hollywood Ending," 30 Jan. 2020 Escape: Richmond Road At 3:40 p.m. Dec. 16, it was reported that a female patient, a Cleveland woman, who had been furloughed to Ahuja Medical Center, 3999 Richmond Road in Beachwood, walked out of the hospital after receiving treatment and escaped. cleveland, "Cleveland man stopped in yard charged with trespassing, burglary: Shaker Heights police blotter," 22 Dec. 2019 Roughly 800,000 federal employees were furloughed or compelled to work without pay while daily reports told of coast-guards visiting food banks, IRS desertions and FBI indictments postponed for want of cash. The Economist, "Plot twists 2019 in review: United States," 20 Dec. 2019 The Treasury Department said 45,479 people, or 56 percent, of the I.R.S.’s staff would be furloughed. Mark Landler, New York Times, "Open, Closed or Something in Between: What a Shutdown Looks Like," 20 Jan. 2018 But the Nationals already had committed to Jose Andres, a Washington chef who offered free meals to furloughed federal workers during the government shutdown and helped feed Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria struck. BostonGlobe.com, "It was a relatively standard career path, one that surely would have led to financial success and a comfortable life. But DeBartolo couldn’t shake the idea that what he really wanted was to work in baseball.," 27 Oct. 2019 That may have furloughed as many as 200,000 additional workers at those companies, according to estimates. Chris Isidore, CNN, "UAW, GM negotiators seek deal as strike reaches two-week mark," 29 Sep. 2019 Blackjewel also furloughed most of its Wyoming employees and shut down two massive surface mines, the first idled by hardship since coal mining in the western region exploded in the 1970s. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Coal miners blocking rail shipments end protest," 26 Sep. 2019 Without a resolution, more than 800,000 government workers could be furloughed or sent to work without pay, disrupting government operations days before Christmas. Lisa Mascaro, The Seattle Times, "Shutdown talk recedes after White House eases wall threat," 18 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.

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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

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

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Time Traveler for furlough

Time Traveler

The first known use of furlough was in 1631

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Statistics for furlough

Last Updated

10 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Furlough.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/furlough. Accessed 23 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for furlough


How to pronounce furlough (audio)

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 How to pronounce furlough (audio) \

Kids Definition of furlough

: a leave of absence from duty

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Spanish Central: Translation of furlough

Nglish: Translation of furlough for Spanish Speakers

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