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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

For personal growth, Protiviti offers 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. Leigh Farr, azcentral, "Ranking of the 2019 Top Companies to Work for in Arizona: Large Company Category," 13 June 2019 Rant to the Jet Ski riders in the slough, spoiling the sabbatical calm with mechanized din. Seattle Times Readers, The Seattle Times, "Rant & Rave: Let’s hear it for the Sounders band," 19 May 2019 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Camping can be such a sabbatical, a rejuvenation, a dodge. Chris Erskine,, "In the glow of a mountain campsite that’s closer than you’d believe," 13 June 2019 Sophie’s Art Tour is on hiatus while Sophie Hughes is on a research sabbatical, but should be up and running again in 2019 (check Peter Jon Lindberg, Condé Nast Traveler, "Hanoi, Time and Again," 20 Nov. 2018 A few days into his sabbatical, Granville noticed, his client started to answer e-mails less frequently. Marisa Meltzer, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Latest Travel Trend? Super Sabbaticals," 24 Dec. 2018 The Los Angeles city librarian took a sabbatical to lead the nationwide Victory Book Campaign, which amassed some six million titles for soldiers and Army hospitals during World War II. Jane Kamensky, WSJ, "‘The Library Book’ Review: The People’s Palace," 11 Oct. 2018 James has not had the benefit of taking two sabbaticals the way Jordan did. Charles P. Pierce,, "Minute by Minute: LeBron James Continues to Push the Limits of Exhaustion," 28 May 2018 Twelve years ago, Caitlin and Samuel Dowe-Sandes headed to Marrakech from Los Angeles with the plan to take a year off from their careers in public relations and filmmaking, respectively, and indulge in an adventurous sabbatical. Gisela Williams, ELLE Decor, "The Vivacious 18th-Century Marakesh Medina of Two L.A. Transplants," 28 Dec. 2018 Greitens took a sabbatical from TMC from late 2013 to spring 2014. kansascity, "Read 2nd report from Missouri House committee investigating Greitens | The Kansas City Star," 24 Apr. 2018 But as her siblings took sabbaticals from the group in the ’60s — Pervis to serve in the U.S. Army, Cleotha to get married — Yvonne stepped up each time and melded her voice with the group, drawing on her childhood singing lessons with her father. Greg Kot,, "Yvonne Staples, key member of Staple Singers, dies at 80," 10 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about sabbatical

Statistics for sabbatical

Last Updated

28 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sabbatical

The first known use of sabbatical was in 1599

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on sabbatical

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


something desired as essential

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Bee Cubed

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!