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

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

This week’s wanted suspect: Eileen Candy Siagatonu, 39 Wanted: Siagatonu is wanted for absconding from her work furlough program. Lyndsay Winkley, San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Diego’s Wanted: Violating rules of work furlough program," 13 June 2019 The wisdom of the Massachusetts furlough program was open to debate aside from race. Peter Baker, The Seattle Times, "Bush made Willie Horton an issue, and for African-Americans, the scars are still fresh," 3 Dec. 2018 Darlene Davis, who lives in Hampton, Va., spent three hours commuting to and from work in Norfolk on Monday morning simply to sign her furlough letter. Washington Post, "‘A huge pain’: Government shutdown briefly idles federal workers before reprieve," 7 Mar. 2018 The furloughs, layoffs, and departures all came as the startup ran low on funding, according to the two employees. Sean O'kane, The Verge, "Hyperloop startup Arrivo is shutting down as workers are laid off," 15 Dec. 2018 When President Lincoln tapped him to command the Army of the Potomac in 1863, Hooker improved food rations and medical care and lengthened furloughs. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, "5 things about ‘Fighting Joe’ Hooker," 19 Mar. 2018 About 420,000 federal employees deemed essential are working without pay, while another 380,000 have been placed on unpaid leave, or furlough. Maureen Linke, WSJ, "Cities and States With the Most Federal Workers Affected by the Shutdown," 12 Jan. 2019 The president has no idea what any of us on furlough feel or think or know or agree with or disagree with. Celeste Katz, Glamour, "These Women Are Still Waiting for Their Paycheck Because of the Government Shutdown," 11 Jan. 2019 The decision comes at a time when the EV startup is nearly completely out of cash after a months-long clash with its main financial backer, Chinese real estate conglomerate Evergrande, that has resulted in hundreds of layoffs and furloughs. Sean O'kane, The Verge, "Federal court freezes Faraday Future CEO’s ownership stake, California mansions," 14 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The stopgap deal promises relief for about 800,000 federal workers, who have been furloughed or working without pay. Ezequiel Minaya, WSJ, "Companies Fear Uncertainty Even as Government Reopens," 28 Jan. 2019 One affiliated program, D.C.'s Capital Area Food Bank, is particularly in need of assistance, given the number of federal employees furloughed in our country's capital. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "How to Help Federal Workers During the Government Shutdown," 25 Jan. 2019 On Friday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis estimated that the shutdown would furlough roughly 50 percent of his civilian work force. Linda Qiu, New York Times, "Trump Overstates Government Shutdown’s Effect on the Military," 19 Jan. 2018 The Shutdown: More Coverage While the main agencies overseeing Medicaid, Medicare and the ACA remain open, employees at Health and Human Services and its agencies have been furloughed. WSJ, "Shutdown Poses Risk to Health Care," 23 Jan. 2019 About 380,000 employees have been furloughed and another 420,000 are currently working without pay. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "George W. Bush Brings Pizza to Employees Who 'Are Working Hard for Our Country Without a Paycheck'," 18 Jan. 2019 Still, hundreds of thousands of employees will be furloughed and likely receive back pay after the fact. Li Zhou, Vox, "What’s open — and closed — during a partial government shutdown," 21 Dec. 2018 Although cleaning crews have been furloughed, the D.C. government and business improvement district have agreed to help out with trash pickup at federal sites. Peter Jamison, Washington Post, "In nation’s capital, much remains open on first day of government shutdown," 20 Jan. 2018 Tens of thousands of federal employees in the Bay Area would be furloughed, meaning agencies would be short on workers to help those who rely on government programs. Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle, "Muir Woods, Alcatraz and other parkland likely to close in federal shutdown," 17 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

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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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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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

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behavior toward others

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