sab·​bat·​i·​cal | \ sə-ˈba-ti-kəl How to pronounce sabbatical (audio) \
variants: or less commonly sabbatic \ sə-​ˈba-​tik How to pronounce sabbatical (audio) \

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

Noun 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 Rice will receive a $5,000 cash award and a sabbatical to study at no cost during the spring semester in 2022 at Northwestern University, Kennedy said. Phil Rockrohr,, "Evanston kindergarten teacher wins Golden Apple: ‘It was amazing to watch her in action’," 4 May 2021 Every year in parts of Europe, summer turns into a mini-sabbatical. Saahil Desai, The Atlantic, "It Only Took a Pandemic to Get Americans to Go on Vacation," 8 Apr. 2021 According to Dowe, the work starts with addressing the most frequent concern for people considering a sabbatical: money. Jessica Poitevien, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Rise of the Adult Gap Year," 5 Apr. 2021 Larson lived up to his considerable talent at 28 by winning a Cup race after a little sabbatical. Terence Moore, Forbes, "Kyle Larson And Other Loose-Lip Folks Get Second Chances With Finances In Mind," 11 Mar. 2021 In other plotlines, the QAnon supporters have a hard time believing the vaccine actually works, and are harassing Mr. Garrison, who is back from his sabbatical, in the grocery store about it. Marianne Garvey, CNN, "'South Park' is back with a vaccination special," 11 Mar. 2021 McLaughlin, a teacher at the University of Wyoming’s Laboratory School in Laramie, was on sabbatical in Lokve when the pandemic hit. Washington Post, "How people are writing the history of the pandemic through everyday journals," 8 Mar. 2021 Northwestern University has provided a spring sabbatical to award recipients at no cost, and each recipient will receive a $5,000 cash award. Steve Schering,, "Oak Park third-grade teacher, Petra Choi, named a Golden Apple Award finalist," 2 Mar. 2021 With the sabbatical stay, guests will receive semi-private roundtrip flights between Honolulu and Lanai on Lanai Air. Stacey Leasca, Travel + Leisure, "This Hawaiian Wellness Retreat Is Offering 30-day Extended Stays for Those Who Need a Reset," 5 Jan. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Foster is on a sabbatical from documentary film-making after suffering from burnout on his previous production. Liani Maasdorp, Quartz, "Oscar-winning “My Octopus Teacher” is a complicated success for South Africa," 3 May 2021 Julie Yasko, a two-time Feather customer based in New York City, initially tested the company to furnish her new apartment after returning with her partner from an international sabbatical. Lindsey Tramuta, Fortune, "The future of furniture is designer rentals," 2 May 2021 Burnout resulting from 90-hour work weeks led to a subsequent sabbatical – primarily a chance to hone his golf game. Marc Bona, cleveland, "Zack Bruell restaurant ownership changes; veteran chef leaves Alley Cat, Cowell & Hubbard," 5 Mar. 2021 The temps are dipping and the days are shortening, but that doesn’t mean your outdoor workouts need to take a sabbatical until spring. Courtney Thompson, CNN Underscored, "The warmest workout gear to keep you active this winter," 16 Nov. 2020 If Jimmie’s Joys, the popular band for dancing at the St. Anthony Roof Garden, was taking a sabbatical to record for Okeh Records, the Express music page could tell you which ensembles would be subbing for them. Paula Allen,, "San Antonio singer’s career detoured into music writing," 26 Sep. 2020 Since Freeman first tested positive for the coronavirus, Braves pitcher Felix Hernandez and outfielder Nick Markakis have decided to opt out of the 2020 season, joining a list of athletes with sufficient means to take a strategic sabbatical. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "Low wages mean anxious Louisville City FC players can ill-afford to opt out," 7 July 2020 Jordan’s season-and-a-half sabbatical to play professional baseball from 1993 to 1995 cleared a path for the Houston Rockets to win back-to-back championships. Jeff Mcdonald,, "How the San Antonio Spurs missed out on a chance to go dancing with Michael Jordan," 23 May 2020 On April 5, regional airline Air Deccan ceased operations, and sent its staff on an indefinite sabbatical without pay. Niharika Sharma, Quartz India, "Indian aviation employees battle fear and anxiety as job losses and pay cuts loom," 28 Apr. 2020

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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Time Traveler for sabbatical

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The first known use of sabbatical was in 1599

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Last Updated

9 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sabbatical.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for sabbatical



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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