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)

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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 That guy should be treating with sabbatical sacrality the weekday associated with the god of Mars, his favorite planet. Jason Kehe, Wired, "Angry Nerd: You're All Wrong About the Worst Day of the Week," 17 Dec. 2019 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Its biggest component is the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which ran Malaysia for 61 years, but took a 21-month sabbatical after Pakatan Harapan booted it from office in 2018. The Economist, "Beset at its birth Malaysia’s new government may be even more unstable than old one," 5 Mar. 2020 The director, who is on sabbatical from his post as an associate professor of theater at Trinity University, is currently in his native Italy; one of his projects there is a Forum piece built on stories from the immigration crisis in Europe. Deborah Martin,, "San Antonio director Robert Prestigiacomo teaching Forum Theatre, which engages audiences on social issues," 3 Mar. 2020 Conrad said he was called a bully, forced to take a sabbatical from preaching and ordered to seek counseling. USA Today, "‘The tongue is a fire’: Southern Baptist church fractures over secrets and spiritual abuse," 13 Feb. 2020 D’Angelo: Devil’s Pie, also premiering at Tribeca, will peer into the work of the titular R&B performer, who took a decade-long sabbatical from music before returning with his acclaimed 2014 full-length Black Messiah. Morgan Enos, Billboard, "After Fyre, MJ and R. Kelly: What Other Music Docs Are Coming in 2019?," 13 Mar. 2019 The chancellor has been diligent and has never taken advantage of opportunities for sabbaticals during her more than 29 years of service, Sullivan wrote. Anne Ryman, azcentral, "Maricopa Community Colleges Chancellor Maria Harper-Marinick to step down earlier than expected," 21 Jan. 2020 Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have been on a break from royal duties since November and haven’t been photographed or seen since the start of their sabbatical. Bianca Betancourt, Harper's BAZAAR, "Meghan Markle, Prince Harry, and Archie Are Spending Christmas Break in Canada," 20 Dec. 2019 Picasso Museum, Vallauris After his sabbatical in Antibes, Picasso moved on to Vallauris, a typical Riviera village midway between Antibes and Cannes. Rick Steves, USA TODAY, "French Riviera: Picasso, Renoir, Matisse and more stunning museums bring cultural richness," 24 Dec. 2019 Following that 1981 piece, Popular Mechanics seemed to have taken a sabbatical from poring over the possible aviators that may or may not have beaten the Wrights to the punch and to the skies. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, "The Long, Complicated History of the Very First Flight," 17 Dec. 2019

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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Cite this Entry

“Sabbatical.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Apr. 2020.

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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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