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


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furloughed; furloughing; furloughs

transitive verb

: to grant a leave of absence or furlough to (someone)
a soldier being furloughed
a furloughed prisoner
: 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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
The younger Namazi was granted a furlough to see his father at this time but then forced to return to Evin prison a little more than a week later. Shannon K. Crawford, ABC News, 10 Aug. 2023 The family applied for medical furlough, the program that allows for the release of certain older or terminally ill inmates. Amy Yurkanin | Ayurkanin@al.com, al, 6 June 2023 Early on in the pandemic, workers were faced with millions of furloughs, closures, and layoffs. Jane Thier, Fortune, 31 May 2023 Olsson had been serving a three-year sentence for grand larceny, until the prison released him on temporary furlough early that August for good behavior. Donald Beaulieu, Washington Post, 23 Aug. 2023 The elder Namazi, a former U.N. official, was released on medical furlough in 2018 and had his sentence commuted in 2020 because of his deteriorating health. Caitlin Yilek, CBS News, 10 Aug. 2023 Other support for Union Plus participants includes layoff or furlough assistance, credit card counseling, hospital grants and medical bill negotiating services. Ada Tseng, Los Angeles Times, 2 May 2023 He was granted a brief furlough in March, when Tehran approved the release of two other foreign nationals, but ultimately forced to return to Evin. Shannon K. Crawford, ABC News, 10 Aug. 2023 Some observers expect Hollywood’s hot labor summer to stretch well into the fall, disrupting the new season on broadcast TV, dashing movie marketing campaigns, possibly prompting furloughs and creating more economic fallout for Los Angeles and its signature industry. Meg James, Los Angeles Times, 8 Aug. 2023
In a letter to state utility regulators, the Building Industry Association’s Fresno and Madera counties chapter said PG&E had furloughed all contract crews that would have energized new residential subdivisions and said new connections would take five months. Dustin Gardiner, San Francisco Chronicle, 10 Mar. 2023 At a time when many companies were laying off and furloughing employees, IEHP made a calming statement of stability to its work family. Staff Author, Peoplemag, 23 Aug. 2023 During the 2018-2019 government shutdown, around 800,000 federal employees were either furloughed or working without pay. Rachel Looker, USA TODAY, 1 Aug. 2023 That could force him into a decision about whether to begin furloughing employees until the mess is cleaned up. Stan Choe, Fortune, 12 Mar. 2023 Founder Jessie Whittington had been making soap as a hobby for years before sharing her passion on TikTok while furloughed from her job as a bus driver. Ana Faguy, Forbes, 23 Mar. 2023 Employees were told they would be furloughed until Monday, however they were also warned that there would be mass layoffs in March if the company is unable to repair its finances. Karl Ebert, Journal Sentinel, 17 Feb. 2023 Workers were eventually furloughed briefly and then brought back when COVID restrictions eased. Globe Columnist, BostonGlobe.com, 27 June 2023 In early October, with no deal in sight, the federal government partially shut down and hundreds of thousands of federal workers were furloughed. Paul Davidson, USA TODAY, 17 May 2023 See More

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

Word History


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

First Known Use


1631, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1781, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of furlough was in 1631

Dictionary Entries Near furlough

Cite this Entry

“Furlough.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/furlough. Accessed 29 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
fur·​lough ˈfər-lō How to pronounce furlough (audio)
: a leave of absence from duty granted especially to a soldier


2 of 2 verb
: to grant a furlough to
: to lay off from work

More from Merriam-Webster on furlough

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