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em·​ploy im-ˈplȯi How to pronounce employ (audio)
employed; employing; employs

transitive verb

: to make use of (someone or something inactive)
employ a pen for sketching
: to use (something, such as time) advantageously
a job that employed her skills
: to use or engage the services of
: to provide with a job that pays wages or a salary
: to devote to or direct toward a particular activity or person
employed all her energies to help the poor


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em·​ploy im-ˈplȯi How to pronounce employ (audio)
ˈem-ˌplȯi How to pronounce employ (audio)
: the state of being employed
in the city's employ
Choose the Right Synonym for employ

use, employ, utilize mean to put into service especially to attain an end.

use implies availing oneself of something as a means or instrument to an end.

willing to use any means to achieve her ends

employ suggests the use of a person or thing that is available but idle, inactive, or disengaged.

looking for better ways to employ their skills

utilize may suggest the discovery of a new, profitable, or practical use for something.

an old wooden bucket utilized as a planter

Example Sentences

Verb The company is accused of employing questionable methods to obtain the contract. You should find better ways to employ your time. I had to employ a lawyer to review the contract. It's a small company, employing a staff of only 20. Noun while you're under our employ, you can't do outside work for our competitors
Recent Examples on the Web
The recruitment will also be staggered, but the new facilities could eventually employ between 250 and 300 workers. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 13 Mar. 2023 Each would employ about 10,000 workers and include a leading-edge microchip fabrication plant, research and development facilities, a robust suppler ecosystem and specialized infrastructure. Joey Garrison, USA TODAY, 1 Mar. 2023 Tyler is somebody that has inspired me in terms of always finding a way to not only employ our people and help them to become part of different industries, but also giving people chances, which isn’t an easy road. WIRED, 27 Feb. 2023 Matt Claxton, Manager of the Gulf Shores location, said the Mobile restaurant will employ about 50 people. Warren Kulo | Wkulo@al.com, al, 27 Feb. 2023 The project did employ more than 6,000 workers during the Great Depression, but in the process, Florida lost countless oak trees, long-leaf pines and many wild animals. Patrick Connolly, Orlando Sentinel, 24 Feb. 2023 The Alliance estimates Connecticut’s nonprofits employ 115,000 people, or roughly 7% of the statewide workforce. Erica E. Phillips, Hartford Courant, 21 Jan. 2023 Wright said the new Medford paper will employ 32 people. oregonlive, 20 Jan. 2023 The store will have 120 fuel pumps and will employ 200 people. Dallas News, 10 Jan. 2023
But his victims were wild horses and his killing was done in the employ of the Province of British Columbia. I.p. Calliston, Outdoor Life, 27 Feb. 2023 Beyond the tricks that the powerful employ to their advantage, Honig also identifies institutional biases within the justice system that discourage prosecution of the rich, famous and powerful. Scott Turow, Washington Post, 1 Feb. 2023 One quarter of California’s forty million residents live in L.A., which is the most populous county in the United States, and the majority are not screenwriters or actors or people whose employ has any connection to the entertainment industry. Andrew Cockburn, Harper’s Magazine , 5 Jan. 2023 The leader of the Harrison mob was an orchardist in the employ of the M&NA who became the Exalted Cyclops of the Harrison Klan No. 101. Kenneth C. Barnes, Arkansas Online, 23 Jan. 2023 Brennan has said workers would eventually be lost via attrition, as their places would not be filled upon their leaving the city’s employ. cleveland, 5 Jan. 2023 Later in the episode, Wallis’s husband’s former valet—now ensconced, as mentioned, in Al Fayed’s employ and helping him with his royal glow-up efforts—reveals that the Duchess has died. Rachel Tashjian, Harper's BAZAAR, 14 Nov. 2022 But athleisure brands don't corner the market on moisture-wicking fabric, Tashjian says: Luxury designers like Marine Serre and Yohji Yamamoto employ light, cooling fabrics for all manner of dress. Scottie Andrew, CNN, 31 Aug. 2022 Kirchick highlights how, from the New Deal all the way through the 1980s, gay men in government employ were perpetually forced to deal with accusations of dual loyalties and the fear that exposure might lead to termination or worse. Samuel Clowes Huneke, The New Republic, 8 June 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'employ.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History



Middle English emploien, emplien "to apply or devote (a thing to a purpose), apply (oneself) to a task, make use of, expend," borrowed from Anglo-French empleier, emploier, emplier "to entangle, fabricate, put to use, devote (oneself) to" (continental Middle French also "to make use of, apply, occupy [time], expend [money], use the services of [a person]"), going back to Latin implicāre "to fold about itself, entwine, entangle, involve, embroil" — more at implicate

Note: This verb does not appear in Middle English before the fifteenth century, and the predominance of the form with -oi-, retained in early Modern English, most likely reflects ongoing influence of continental French. — Latin implicāre gave rise to a verb meaning "to use, make use of" in Gallo-Romance (Old Occitan emplegar in addition to French empleier), Italian (impiegare) and Catalan (emplegar). Spanish emplear is an early borrowing from Old French. Compare imply.


borrowed from French emploi, going back to Middle French, "use, service," noun derivative of emploier "to put to use, employ entry 1"

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1679, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of employ was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near employ

Cite this Entry

“Employ.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/employ. Accessed 24 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
em·​ploy im-ˈplȯi How to pronounce employ (audio)
: to make use of : use
: to use or obtain the services of
employ a lawyer to draw up a will
: to provide with a job that pays wages or a salary
employ a staff of twenty
: to use or direct toward a particular goal
employ all of your energies to getting the job done


2 of 2 noun
: employment especially for wages or a salary
generous to people in their employ

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