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


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

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of layoff in a Sentence


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


you need to lay off eating those jelly doughnuts, or you'll end up looking like one
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The layoffs in 2017 were mostly on the company’s business side. Benjamin Mullin, WSJ, "BuzzFeed to Cut 15% of Its Workforce," 23 Jan. 2019 Whittier chief executive Frederica Williams had said the layoffs were because of financial trouble after two grants failed to come through, but the union and the workers insist it was done to suppress the union drive., "The week in business," 23 June 2018 The Journal also reported that McDonald’s has already made an undisclosed number of corporate job cuts, and the most recent layoffs are part of a strategy to reduce administrative expenses by $500 million before the end of 2019. Jonathan Sperling, Fortune, "McDonald's Plans to Eliminate a Number of Corporate Jobs as Part of Reorganization Plan," 7 June 2018 But the layoffs are a change at a company that has been in expansion mode since its founding by the former Panthers tight end in 2008. Deon Roberts, charlotteobserver, "Mortgage company layoffs hit Charlotte," 31 May 2018 The district said actual layoffs should be minimal because of attrition and vacancies. Annysa Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "MPS proposed budget would slash $11 million from schools, cut 140 positions," 2 May 2018 South Alabama shows 'a lot of rust' in return to practice field following spring break South Alabama hit the football practice field Tuesday for the first time since March 22, and the layoff was noticeable. Mark Heim,, "Final Four 2018: Watch double technicals in Michigan-Villanova game," 3 Apr. 2018 The layoffs are part of the company’s plan to cut between $400 million and $500 million in costs over the next two years. Sydney Ember, New York Times, "Meredith Says It Intends to Sell Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money," 21 Mar. 2018 The company told the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services the layoffs are due to a business reorganization. Laura Hancock,, "Philips Healthcare laying off at least 65 Ohio employees, it says in letter to state," 14 Mar. 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of layoff


1889, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1748, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about layoff

Statistics for layoff

Last Updated

13 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for layoff

The first known use of layoff was in 1748

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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



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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on layoff

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with layoff

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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).


an act or instance of returning to life

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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