sab·​bat·​i·​cal | \sə-ˈba-ti-kəl \
variants: or less commonly sabbatic \sə-​ˈba-​tik \

Definition of sabbatical 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : of or relating to a sabbatical year

2 : of or relating to the sabbath sabbatical laws



Definition of sabbatical (Entry 2 of 2)

3 : a break or change from a normal routine (as of employment)

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The History of Sabbatical and Sabbath: Take a Break


We tend to think of sabbatical in academic terms, as a school year free from teaching duties that can be devoted to research, travel, and writing. Traditionally, this occurs every seventh year. Because of this scholarly context, we may easily miss what is hiding in plain sight: that sabbatical is related to Sabbath, which refers to the Biblical day of rest, or the seventh day. We trace the origins of both sabbatical and Sabbath to the Greek word sabbaton. Sabbaton itself traces to the Hebrew word shabbāth, meaning “rest.”

The Old Testament refers to God’s “day of rest” most famously in Genesis, but Sabbath referring to an entire year of rest is mentioned in Leviticus (25:3-5):

Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof;

But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.

That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land.

Sabbatical is also used as an adjective to refer specifically to the rules governing the observance of the Sabbath, as in “sabbatical laws.”

Examples of sabbatical in a Sentence


Several professors will be taking sabbaticals this year. She recently returned to work after a two-year sabbatical from her acting career. Several professors will be on sabbatical this year.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Eligible consultants can take part in a sabbatical program that allows eligible consultants to take up to three months off to pursue their own personal passions and adventures, with a stipend. azcentral, "Top Companies to Work for in Arizona 2018-Large Companies," 7 June 2018 So began our family's sabbatical summer to Kauai, Hawaii; Hokkaido, Japan; northern Italy; and Norway. Bonnie Tsui, Redbook, "What It's Like to Travel Through 4 Countries In 3 Months With 2 Kids," 23 May 2017 If selected as the Golden Apple Award recipient, Ahern will receive a $5,000 cash award and be provided with a tuition-free, spring quarter sabbatical to study at Northwestern University. Yadira Sanchez Olson, Lake County News-Sun, "'I want to grow up to be like her': Students praise Waukegan teacher named Golden Apple finalist," 16 Feb. 2018 After a couple of years sabbatical Heynckes was reappointed Bayern's coach in October 2017 - for a fourth time - after Carlos Ancelotti's sacking., "Jupp Heynckes 'Turned Down' Enticing Coaching Offer From Chelsea After 2013 Bayern Munich Treble," 22 Jan. 2018 Benefits offered at Charles Schwab include automatic enrollment in the 401(k) plan with company match, an employee stock ownership program, matching charitable gifts, and a sabbatical program for eligible workers after five years of service. Lisa Greim, The Denver Post, "Top large workplace 2017: USAA gets high marks for its mission to aid customers and employees," 7 Apr. 2017 Pleased with the rejuvenating results, Mr. Anderszewski, who plays a solo recital at Carnegie Hall on Friday, Feb. 17, took another sabbatical five years later, an extended break of 16 months. Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, "A Pianist’s Warsaw: ‘Fascination and Pain’," 10 Feb. 2017 DU Law professor Ann Vessels started the Veterans Advocacy Project in August 2015 after forming it during a sabbatical semester. Joe Vaccarelli, The Denver Post, "DU law students get hands-on experience helping veterans," 24 Jan. 2017 So began our family's sabbatical summer to Kauai, Hawaii; Hokkaido, Japan; northern Italy; and Norway. Bonnie Tsui, Redbook, "What It's Like to Travel Through 4 Countries In 3 Months With 2 Kids," 23 May 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Programs like parental leave, sabbaticals, and adoption assistance are the cherry on top. Fortune, "Hilton Worldwide," 16 Feb. 2018 In the piece, Lilla even cited his time taking a sabbatical in France as formative of his opinions on this subject. Zack Beauchamp, Vox, "Trevor Noah’s feud with France over race, identity, and Africa — explained," 19 July 2018 Guardiola took his first senior job in 2008 when he was promoted from within to the role of Barcelona boss, before moving on to Bayern Munich in 2013 after a year-long sabbatical, and eventually taking over at City in the summer of 2016., "Billion Pound Drop: Pep Guardiola's Career Spending Hits £1bn After Man City Mahrez Deal," 12 July 2018 Anderson, who had been the athletic director since 2010, resigned in April, days before the sabbatical was to end. Don Markus,, "In an emotional news conference, Damon Evans introduced as Maryland's new athletic director," 26 June 2018 On June 25, Evans was officially named the permanent replacement for Kevin Anderson, who resigned in April after spending the previous six months of his 7½ year tenure on sabbatical. Don Markus,, "New Maryland athletic director Damon Evans signs six-year contract, potentially worth about $800,000 annually," 13 July 2018 Shortly after that, Murray started an 11-month sabbatical because of a hip injury that required surgery in January. Sandra Harwitt, USA TODAY, "Andy Murray set for first Grand Slam appearance since 2017 Wimbledon," 30 June 2018 Has anyone else noticed how inspired and calm artist Portia Cobb seems on her sabbatical, with images of book pages, blue skies and beautiful food (thank you for the tip on the Tippecanoe Herbs & Apothecary). Mary Louise Schumacher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee's most Instagrammable artists and places," 11 May 2018 Suarez is going to take a little bit of a sabbatical from food challenges and let some other fans step up. Matt Young, Houston Chronicle, "What it's like to tackle Corpus Christi Hooks' crazy food challenge," 19 Apr. 2018

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


1599, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1903, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for sabbatical


Late Latin sabbaticus, from Greek sabbatikos, from sabbaton

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The first known use of sabbatical was in 1599

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English Language Learners Definition of sabbatical

: a period of time during which someone does not work at his or her regular job and is able to rest, travel, do research, etc.

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More from Merriam-Webster on sabbatical

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with sabbatical

Spanish Central: Translation of sabbatical

Nglish: Translation of sabbatical for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sabbatical for Arabic Speakers

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to move with a clumsy heavy tread

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