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sab·​bat·​i·​cal sə-ˈba-ti-kəl How to pronounce sabbatical (audio)
variants or less commonly sabbatic
: of or relating to a sabbatical year
: of or relating to the sabbath
sabbatical laws


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: 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.
Recent Examples on the Web
The professor, currently on sabbatical, has written numerous books about Native issues. Noah Goldberg, Los Angeles Times, 28 Aug. 2023 Sage also provides additional compensation for employees who choose to dedicate their five-year sabbatical — a period of five weeks off, every five years — to acts of community service. Staff Author, Peoplemag, 23 Aug. 2023 Instead, over half of those surveyed believe the four-day workweek will gain the most traction, followed by 20% who think that sabbatical policies would. Orianna Rosa Royle, Fortune, 15 Aug. 2023 Payton, 59, back from a one-year sabbatical from coaching, is the same upbeat, cocksure soul who generated so much success, including a Super Bowl crown, during 15 seasons with the New Orleans Saints. Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY, 27 July 2023 Eventually, or so the hope went, SARS-CoV-2 would adhere to the same calendar that many other airway pathogens stick to, at least in temperate parts of the globe: a heavy winter peak, then a summer on sabbatical. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 29 July 2023 Schultz said Gordon — who was on a sabbatical following his retirement — will continue to be active at Sukkat Shalom under the title of Senior Rabbi Emeritus. Daniel I. Dorfman, Chicago Tribune, 21 Feb. 2023 View full post on Instagram Per Hello!, Chatto's parents meant while Sarah was on a sabbatical in India with her father, Antony Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon. Alyssa Bailey, ELLE, 13 Apr. 2023 The American Music Awards are likely to take a one-year sabbatical, Variety has learned. Michael Schneider, Variety, 24 Mar. 2023
Insider - Companies are offering sabbaticals to employees earlier to stave off burnout. Paige McGlauflin, Fortune, 10 Aug. 2023 Irving has played only 163 of 308 regular-season games over the last four years because of: Injuries and unexplained personal sabbaticals. Callie Caplan, Dallas News, 30 June 2023 One of the initiatives, which offers individuals a paid sabbatical of up to 90 days through the rest of this year, was conceptualized soon after Bowser (D) won reelection in November, according to City Administrator Kevin Donahue. Michael Brice-Saddler, Washington Post, 1 June 2023 Paid sabbaticals and huge signing bonuses are among tools being used. Pete Norman,, 4 June 2023 Advertisement Sabbaticals have become increasingly popular among employers in the United States, with Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia and Bank of America among the companies to launch paid sabbatical efforts this year. Michael Brice-Saddler, Washington Post, 1 June 2023 Voluntary reduction in hours, internal redeployment, reducing executive compensation, remote work, voluntary leave of absence, a hiring freeze, benefit cuts, organization-wide pay cuts, and sabbaticals are the other options companies can take instead of mass layoffs, Gartner advises. Sheryl Estrada, Fortune, 15 May 2023 Fund internships, salaries, expanded benefits and sabbaticals. Matthew Gayer, Forbes, 3 May 2023 The van der Vliets are part of an increasing number of families going on extended sabbaticals while also taking advantage of the numerous educational programs available. Julia Zaltzman, Robb Report, 26 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sabbatical.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Late Latin sabbaticus, from Greek sabbatikos, from sabbaton

First Known Use


1599, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1903, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of sabbatical was in 1599

Dictionary Entries Near sabbatical

Cite this Entry

“Sabbatical.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


variants or sabbatic
: of or relating to the Sabbath
sabbatical laws
: of or relating to a leave granted usually every seventh year (as to a professor) for rest, travel, or research
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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