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

About 380,000 federal employees are being forced to take unpaid leave, also known as furlough, while another 420,000 workers deemed essential are working without pay until funding is restored. Kristina Peterson, WSJ, "House Passes Spending Package in Bid to End Shutdown," 4 Jan. 2019 About 380,000 employees would be forced to take unpaid leave, also known as furlough, while other workers, deemed essential employees, would work without pay. Jim Carlton, WSJ, "Government Shutdown Scuppers Holiday Plans, Threatens to Delay Paychecks," 25 Dec. 2018 Active duty members of the military are exempt from shutdown furloughs, according to a contingency plan for the Department of Homeland Security. Li Zhou, Vox, "What’s open — and closed — during a partial government shutdown," 21 Dec. 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

These are people who are now furloughed and can collect unemployment insurance or take a second job. . Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "The Government Shutdown Is Now Endangering the Food We Eat," 10 Jan. 2019 Most of the agency’s nearly 14,500 employees will be furloughed after that money runs out. Mark Landler, New York Times, "Open, Closed or Something in Between: What a Shutdown Looks Like," 20 Jan. 2018 The Justice Department’s civil lawyers are typically furloughed during a shutdown, though they are notably allowed to continue working on a case if the court orders it. Dylan Scott, Vox, "Why the government shutdown is good legal news for Trump," 27 Dec. 2018 But, like for the nearly one million federal employees working without pay or being furloughed, the partial government shutdown has necessitated a change of plans. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Donald Trump and Melania Won't Spend Christmas at Mar-a-Lago for the First Time in Years," 24 Dec. 2018 These new court actions come at a precarious time for Faraday Future, which has laid off and furloughed hundreds of employees over the last two months. Sean O'kane, The Verge, "Federal court freezes Faraday Future CEO’s ownership stake, California mansions," 14 Dec. 2018 The same legislation, called the Pay Our Military Act, was used to bring back nearly 350,000 of the 800,000 civilian personnel who had been furloughed by the Defense Department. Salvador Rizzo, BostonGlobe.com, "Fact check: Military won’t ‘shut down’ as Trump claims," 23 Mar. 2018 If the government fails to fund the government, a partial shutdown would begin on Saturday, which would require many federal workers to be furloughed and various offices closed. Benjy Sarlin, NBC News, "Fact check: Trump claims government shutdown would hurt military," 18 Jan. 2018 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

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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Statistics for furlough

Last Updated

13 Jan 2019

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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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Spanish Central: Translation of furlough

Nglish: Translation of furlough for Spanish Speakers

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