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)

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: Adjective Inspired by the Exodus Summit, a virtual conference that helps Black women plan a sabbatical or permanent move abroad, Freeman had sold her home, her van and many of her possession ... Nedra Rhone, ajc, 27 Apr. 2022 Her return was symbolic and personal following a two-year soccer sabbatical with the Sockers FC Chicago Development Academy, which meant growing her game elsewhere. Patrick Z. Mcgavin, Chicago Tribune, 25 Apr. 2022 The hit factory needed a sabbatical, but rather than let her rest, Britney’s agency was all but erased. Raven Smith, Vogue, 13 Apr. 2022 Not everyone returns from a sabbatical refreshed and ready for new challenges, of course. Anne Kadet, Fortune, 15 Mar. 2022 Even for those of us who have started looking elsewhere for fulfillment by starting a new hobby, taking a sabbatical, or securing a better, more meaningful job, all of these solutions leave the theocracy of work intact. Carolyn Chen, The Atlantic, 22 Mar. 2022 The couple got the idea for their venture while Trina was furloughed from her restaurant during the pandemic and Jessica was on sabbatical. Jean Song, CBS News, 25 Mar. 2022 After the sabbatical, Popovich, true to his word, returned to Pomona-Pitzer. Tim Reynolds, ajc, 8 Mar. 2022 Although 14 years younger, Schryver graduated from Lowthorpe in 1923 and had worked five years for New York landscape architect Ellen Shipman before taking a sabbatical and joining the college’s European Travel Course tour in 1927. oregonlive, 10 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Tesla’s director for artificial intelligence is taking a sabbatical from the company, but that has not stopped CEO Elon Musk from announcing plans for the possible market launch of its A.I.-heavy Optimus robot in 2023. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 28 Mar. 2022 Indeed, Paul is taking a sabbatical from acting for the rest of this year to devote his time to Dos Hombres as well as his wife, Lauren, and their growing family. Angela Dawson, Forbes, 15 Apr. 2022 Morby wrote much of This Is a Photograph during a sabbatical in Memphis, and the looming spectre of both Reatard and countless other cultural visionaries from the city provided constant inspiration for the record. Kat Bouza, Rolling Stone, 30 Mar. 2022 Read how a decision to take a sabbatical from her full-time job helped Elder-Moore reclaim her joy and find clarity for what’s important. Getting active helps kick off her day. Brittney Oliver, Essence, 28 Mar. 2022 Amy Hillier, a faculty member at the social-work school, took a sabbatical from Penn because she was so disillusioned by Mackenzie’s treatment. Rachel Aviv, The New Yorker, 28 Mar. 2022 In light of Musk's announcement, the sudden news that his director of A.I., Andrej Karpathy, is taking a four-month sabbatical from his day job raises question marks. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 28 Mar. 2022 And that was after Barty had returned to tennis following an almost two-year sabbatical that started in 2014 and involved a shot at becoming a fulltime professional cricket player. John Pye, ajc, 24 Mar. 2022 Then came the delight of hearing about the February sabbatical. New York Times, 12 Feb. 2022 See More

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.

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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sabbatical year

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Last Updated

9 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Sabbatical.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2022.

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