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 The Cleveland man, 37, was taken to the hospital and released on a medical furlough. cleveland, "Woman makes threats after not receiving refund on security deposit: Richmond Heights Police Blotter," 18 Dec. 2020 After her latest furlough, Monday felt a little like the first day of school. James Walsh, Star Tribune, "Minnesota restaurants and bars resume indoor service, with restrictions," 12 Jan. 2021 Her furlough was extended indefinitely in May, raising hopes that she could be given clemency and soon return to Britain. Elian Peltier, New York Times, "U.K. Says It Can’t Guarantee Assistance for Citizen Held in Iran," 29 Dec. 2020 In July, United warned that one-third of its nearly 12,000 aviators faced a furlough because a steep drop in travel demand is forcing the airline to resize its operations. Bloomberg Wire, Dallas News, "United Airlines to furlough as many as 2,850 pilots without new government aid," 27 Aug. 2020 In towns where taxpayers are required to apply for deferment, a household must show a reduction in income of at least 20% due to COVID-19 because of a furlough, reduction in work hours or unemployment. Michael Hamad, courant.com, "Connecticut residents may have until April 1 to pay their Jan. 1 taxes without penalty, but it’s up to the towns," 26 Dec. 2020 It was widely reported in early September that most of the association’s approximately 600 employees would be required to take a furlough of between 3-8 weeks. Zach Osterman, The Indianapolis Star, "The NCAA has been good to Indianapolis. Now, it needs Indy more than ever.," 16 Nov. 2020 In March, his job as a hotel sales manager in Seattle disappeared -- first through a furlough, then a permanent layoff. Jeanne Sahadi, CNN, "The Covid Divide: The pandemic has plunged some into poverty, and boosted savings for others," 10 Dec. 2020 Huntsville’s staff of 120 airport authority have also not experienced a layoff or a furlough, said spokeswoman Jana Kuner. al, "No layoffs, no furloughs: Alabama airports hold on despite aviation industry COVID struggles," 8 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb By mid-March, the coronavirus had forced Mr. Aron to furlough 35,000 workers, including himself, and close every AMC theater: 10,700 screens in 15 countries. New York Times, "Can a Brash Executive in Kansas Save Movie Theaters?," 22 Jan. 2021 The subsidiary of Hornblower Cruises that runs the ferries, Alcatraz Cruises, was forced to furlough most of its employees during the pandemic. Kurtis Alexander, SFChronicle.com, "Alcatraz — at least the outdoor areas — to reopen Monday after 5-month coronavirus closure," 13 Aug. 2020 The federal agency tasked with offering citizenship, green cards and visas to immigrants is planning to furlough about two-thirds of its workers at the end of the month after Congress failed to reach a deal on a coronavirus stimulus package. Jessica Flores, USA TODAY, "Coronavirus live updates: Scientists say new nasal spray can help fight COVID; college football season in shambles; Texas passes 500K cases," 12 Aug. 2020 American is planning to furlough 19,000 employees starting Oct. 1 if no more government grants are forthcoming. Randy Diamond, ExpressNews.com, "Del Rio worried about air service loss," 21 Sep. 2020 Arizona State University doesn't expect to furlough or cut pay for its faculty and staff, diverging from financial cutbacks implemented at the other two state universities. Rachel Leingang, The Arizona Republic, "President Michael Crow: No furloughs, layoffs or program eliminations expected at ASU due to COVID-19," 18 Sep. 2020 United will furlough 1,747 pilots when U.S. payroll support ends on Oct. 1, followed by 572 at the end of the month and 531 on Nov. 30, the union said. Bloomberg Wire, Dallas News, "United Airlines to furlough as many as 2,850 pilots without new government aid," 27 Aug. 2020 With sales down 75%, Mr. Ferrigno, who runs one of the most famous workshops, had to furlough two of his four employees. Pietro Lombardi, WSJ, "For One Prized Italian Tradition, Covid-19 Deals Heartbreaking Blow," 12 Dec. 2020 In March, the brewery had to furlough its employees including seven bartenders. Mike Snider, USA TODAY, "Small Brewery Sunday: Love, or possibly lose, your local brewpub as pandemic slows down sales," 28 Nov. 2020

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

2 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Furlough.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/furlough. Accessed 26 Feb. 2021.

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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
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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