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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for furlough

Synonyms: Noun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 Employers and workers should both keep a close eye on the language in their insurance policies in the event of a furlough. Alex Janin, WSJ, "What to Do if You Are Furloughed, Fired or Laid Off," 7 Dec. 2020 It’s a trend not seen since the Depression-era parties of the 1930s, or the wartime nuptials of the 1940s, when grooms were often about to be sent overseas, or granted a brief furlough. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "The Return of the Micro-Wedding: How Planners and Vendors Are Making Small-Scale Events Stylish, and Safe," 14 Oct. 2020 New York Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered five days of furlough for about 500 members of his City Hall staff, including himself. Henry Goldman, Bloomberg.com, "NYC Mayor to Furlough 500 Staff, Including Self, for Week," 16 Sep. 2020 In March, White was among thousands of prisoners who were granted medical furlough and released from prison to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which ravaged the country. Stefan Becket, CBS News, "U.S. Navy vet freed from Iran after nearly 2 years in custody," 4 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Southwest Airlines plans to furlough up to 1,182 Bay Area employees as part of national temporary job cuts of 6,828 workers as travel demand remains sluggish. Roland Li, SFChronicle.com, "Southwest to furlough up to 1,182 employees at Oakland, SFO and San Jose airports," 11 Dec. 2020 Companies including Disney, the insurance giant Allstate and two major airlines announced plans to fire or furlough more than 60,000 workers in recent days, and more cuts are expected without a new federal aid package to stimulate the economy. Gillian Friedman, New York Times, "New Layoffs Add to Worries Over U.S. Economic Slowdown," 1 Oct. 2020 Unless Congress acts to help for a second time, United will furlough Comeaux on Thursday, cutting off his income and health insurance. Tom Krisher And Cathy Bussewitz, USA TODAY, "'I don’t have a Plan B': 40,000 airline workers brace for mass layoffs," 30 Sep. 2020 Dissent from that wealthy subsection of fans is enough to negate even the ripple effects of a nationwide pandemic that forced the athletic department to furlough some, fire others and eliminate 35 more positions. Nick Moyle, ExpressNews.com, "After loss to Iowa State, Herman and Texas come to a crossroads," 30 Nov. 2020 Earlier this year, Arcadia was forced to furlough staff (paywall) and slash executive pay. Marc Bain, Quartz, "Topshop is a casualty of Covid’s Darwinian culling of retailers," 30 Nov. 2020 If businesses close and have to furlough or lay off employees, new filers won't get the additional federal benefits like many did earlier on in the pandemic. Adrienne Roberts, Detroit Free Press, "New Michigan jobless claims drop to levels not seen since before the pandemic," 22 Oct. 2020 Ramos has had to furlough about three dozen employees. Steve Lopez Columnist, Los Angeles Times, "Column: Does L.A. County’s crackdown on outdoor dining go too far?," 2 Dec. 2020 In exchange, Delta will not furlough pilots until at least Jan. 1, 2022. Kelly Yamanouchi, Star Tribune, "Delta pilots agree to pay cut to avoid furloughs," 27 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about furlough

Time Traveler for furlough

Time Traveler

The first known use of furlough was in 1631

See more words from the same year

Statistics for furlough

Last Updated

9 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Furlough.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/furlough. Accessed 20 Jan. 2021.

Keep scrolling for more

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

More from Merriam-Webster on furlough

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for furlough

Nglish: Translation of furlough for Spanish Speakers

Comments on furlough

What made you want to look up furlough? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Words of Snow and Ice Quiz

  • image1037863653
  • Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!