lay·​off | \ ˈlā-ˌȯf How to pronounce layoff (audio) \

Definition of layoff

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a period of inactivity or idleness
2 : the act of laying off an employee or a workforce also : shutdown

lay off

laid off; laying off; lays off

Definition of lay off (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to mark or measure off
2 : to cease to employ (a worker) often temporarily
3 of a bookie : to place all or part of (an accepted bet) with another bookie to reduce the risk
4a : to leave undisturbed
b : avoid, quit was advised to lay off smoking and alcohol
c : to refrain from swinging at (a pitch)

intransitive verb

1 : to stop doing or taking something
2 : to leave one alone wish you'd just lay off

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Examples of layoff in a Sentence

Noun The company announced the layoff of several hundred employees. More layoffs are expected at the factory later this year. The band finally has a new album after a three year layoff. a layoff of three years Verb you need to lay off eating those jelly doughnuts, or you'll end up looking like one
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The layoffs are the latest blow to a region on the edge of the Rust Belt that hasn’t fully benefited from the economic recovery that President Donald Trump — who attended a private campaign fundraiser in Wheeling in July — has touted. Washington Post, "Hospital closings hit hard on the edge of the Rust Belt," 8 Sep. 2019 McClary said the board of education warned the council in advance that layoffs would be necessary if the reduction was instituted but incumbents on row A voted for it anyway. Steven Goode,, "Candidates in Bloomfield hitting the bricks and knocking on doors in final days of primary preparation," 6 Sep. 2019 Penny Abernathy, a journalism professor at the University of North Carolina who has studied the decline of newspapers, said layoffs were all but guaranteed. Marc Tracy, New York Times, "Gannett, the Owner of USA Today, Is About to Get a Whole Lot Bigger," 5 Aug. 2019 Penny Abernathy, a journalism professor at the University of North Carolina who has studied the decline of newspapers, said layoffs were all but guaranteed. Marc Tracy,, "GateHouse Media, a major player in Massachusetts, buys USA Today publisher Gannett," 5 Aug. 2019 The layoffs are the largest at Uber since it was founded in 2009. Alison Griswold, Quartz, "Uber is laying off one-third of its global marketing team," 29 July 2019 Business has been on a multidecade campaign to shift more economic risk from its balance sheet onto its work force — through de-unionization, routine use of layoffs, outsourcing and the use of independent contractors. Neil Irwin, New York Times, "Maybe We’re Not All Going to Be Gig Economy Workers After All," 15 Sep. 2019 In a separate report, the government said that new applications for unemployment benefits, a proxy for layoffs, dropped by 15,000 last week to 204,000. Washington Post, "US consumer prices up slight 0.1% in August but core higher," 12 Sep. 2019 The school also reduced the number of counselors, faculty and staff through layoffs, non-renewal of contracts, and buy-outs, but did not provide specific numbers despite several requests. Nanette Asimov,, "CCSF students protest hefty pay raises for executives amid budget cuts," 12 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'layoff.' 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 layoff


1889, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1748, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

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Statistics for layoff

Last Updated

31 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for layoff

The first known use of layoff was in 1748

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More Definitions for layoff



Financial Definition of layoff

What It Is

A layoff is a temporary or permanent termination of employment by an employer.

How It Works

Let's say John Doe works for Company XYZ. He has worked there for 15 years. Company XYZ begins having cash flow problems and has to reduce its labor expense in order to avoid going out of business. In turn, it decides to shed 1,000 workers, of which John is one. This mass termination is called a layoff.

A layoff is not the same as being fired. Firings typically occur when an employee is at fault or has disobeyed company policies; terminations are not necessarily a direct reflection of a particular employee's performance (although it takes a village to wreck a company).

Why It Matters

From an investing standpoint, layoffs indicate a struggling company and thus are red flags for their investors. Layoffs can be surprises to people, and they are one of many reasons that investors should have emergency funds on hand at all times.

However, people often get some indication that a layoff is coming. The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires employers to provide 60 days' notice (sometimes more) of plant closings and mass layoffs. However, this applies to companies with more than 100 employees (and that 100 generally cannot include people who have been with the company for fewer than six months or part-timers).

Source: Investing Answers


How to pronounce lay off (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of layoff

: the act of ending the employment of a worker or group of workers
: a period of time during which there is no activity

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More from Merriam-Webster on layoff

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for layoff

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with layoff

Spanish Central: Translation of layoff

Nglish: Translation of layoff for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of layoff for Arabic Speakers

Comments on layoff

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


to engage in dissolute behavior

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