sab·bat·i·cal | \ sə-ˈba-ti-kəl \
variants: or less commonly sabbatic \sə-ˈba-tik \

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


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

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 DU Law professor Ann Vessels started the Veterans Advocacy Project in August 2015 after forming it during a sabbatical semester. Joe Vaccarelli, The Denver Post, "DU law students get hands-on experience helping veterans," 24 Jan. 2017 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

On June 25, Evans was officially named the permanent replacement for Kevin Anderson, who resigned in April after spending the previous six months of his 7½ year tenure on sabbatical. Don Markus,, "New Maryland athletic director Damon Evans signs six-year contract, potentially worth about $800,000 annually," 13 July 2018 Shortly after that, Murray started an 11-month sabbatical because of a hip injury that required surgery in January. Sandra Harwitt, USA TODAY, "Andy Murray set for first Grand Slam appearance since 2017 Wimbledon," 30 June 2018 Has anyone else noticed how inspired and calm artist Portia Cobb seems on her sabbatical, with images of book pages, blue skies and beautiful food (thank you for the tip on the Tippecanoe Herbs & Apothecary). Mary Louise Schumacher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee's most Instagrammable artists and places," 11 May 2018 Suarez is going to take a little bit of a sabbatical from food challenges and let some other fans step up. Matt Young, Houston Chronicle, "What it's like to tackle Corpus Christi Hooks' crazy food challenge," 19 Apr. 2018 An All-American and five-star recruit who effectively spent a year on sabbatical, Mitchell Robinson tread a winding path to the draft. Jeremy Woo,, "2018 NBA Draft: Mitchell Robinson Scouting Report and Highlights," 18 June 2018 Fabienne Mondesir, a Boston area public school biology teacher who’s taking a year sabbatical to lead engagement at Harvard’s pgEd program said that moving beyond just talk will take concrete tools people can bring back to their communities. Megan Molteni, WIRED, "Crispr Fans Fight for Egalitarian Access to Gene Editing," 6 June 2018 Lahey will return after a one-year sabbatical to teach philosophy. Alison Kuznitz,, "A Visionary Leader, President John Lahey Casts His Final Shadow On Quinnipiac University," 2 July 2018 Maryland’s job opened when Kevin Anderson went on a six-month sabbatical in October and stepped down in April. Marc Narducci,, "Temple AD Patrick Kraft loses out on Maryland job," 25 June 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.

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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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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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