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 Tanzella was sentenced to a year of work furlough on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. San Diego Union-Tribune, "How a white supremacist shed hate and found redemption," 2 Sep. 2019 Rivian has hired about 50 former Faraday Future employees, including at least 34 since the struggling startup put workers on furlough late last year. Sean O'kane, The Verge, "EV startup Rivian has poached dozens from Ford, McLaren, Tesla, and Faraday Future," 2 July 2019 Next week will mark the three-year anniversary of his firing at LSU and the start of his 26-month furlough from football. Ross Dellenger, SI.com, "Les Miles Revels in and Reflects on Kansas's Historic Power 5 Road Upset," 16 Sep. 2019 The employees summoned back from furlough to process tax refunds are paid between $25,800 and $51,000 a year, depending on their seniority. Jeff Stein, The Seattle Times, "Citing hardship, hundreds of furloughed IRS workers skip returning to work," 23 Jan. 2019 Government workers must also endure hiring freezes, furloughs and government shutdowns. The Economist, "The federal bureaucracies were already creaking," 7 Sep. 2019 This week’s wanted suspect: Maddry Traman Fulgham, 29 Wanted: Fulgham is wanted on a felony warrant for absconding from a local work furlough program. Alex Riggins, San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Diego’s Wanted: Absconding from work furlough," 8 Aug. 2019 Companies that need to trim costs should strongly consider alternatives to layoffs, such as buy-outs, furloughs, and salary cuts, for the sake of their own self-interest as well as the lives of their employees, Sucher says. Sarah Todd, Quartz at Work, "The short but destructive history of mass layoffs," 12 July 2019 There have been multiple rounds of furloughs and layoffs, including in March, when 132 employees were let go. Dawn Rhodes, chicagotribune.com, "Despite plummeting enrollment and layoffs, Western Illinois gives outgoing president generous exit: ‘He did much better than the university did’," 1 July 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 If lawmakers do not pass a budget by next Friday, state employees will receive warnings stating that they will be furloughed or laid off in two weeks. James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska Senate will delay another vote on $3,000 PFD," 6 June 2019 Roughly 23% of the department’s overseas employees and 40% of its U.S. employees are furloughed, the spokesman said. Courtney Mcbride, WSJ, "State Department Workers Called Back to Their Jobs," 17 Jan. 2019 Nonessential federal workers are furloughed, which means they are sent home and docked pay. Tessa Berenson, Time, "What Is a Government Shutdown? Here's What Happens Now," 19 Jan. 2018 According to the Portman’s report, the 52 days the federal government was fully or partially shut down over the past five years cost taxpayers nearly $4 billion, mostly in back pay to federal workers who were furloughed. Sabrina Eaton, cleveland.com, "Government shutdowns cost taxpayers nearly $4 billion over last five years, says report from Sen. Rob Portman," 17 Sep. 2019 Musicians, actors, engineers, rocket scientists and furloughed employees have worked for them, too. Deborah Storey | For Al.com, al.com, "Food delivery craze drives GrubSouth," 17 July 2019 Rivian also seized on the misfortune of the sputtering Faraday Future, hiring at least 34 employees after the EV startup furloughed and laid off hundreds of workers in late 2018. Sean O'kane, The Verge, "EV startup Rivian has poached dozens from Ford, McLaren, Tesla, and Faraday Future," 2 July 2019 Mattis said Friday that about half of them would be furloughed. Dan Lamothe, Washington Post, "Amid government shutdown, the military becomes major front in political battle," 20 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


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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More from Merriam-Webster on furlough

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Spanish Central: Translation of furlough

Nglish: Translation of furlough for Spanish Speakers

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