[ em-ploi ]
/ ɛmˈplɔɪ /
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See synonyms for: employ / employed / employing / employs on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object)
to hire or engage the services of (a person or persons); provide employment for; have or keep in one's service: This factory employs thousands of people.
to make use of (an instrument, means, etc.); use; apply: We employ objective and scientific methods to analyze all management areas.
to keep busy or at work; engage the attentions of: He employs himself by reading after work.
to occupy or devote (time, energies, etc.): I employ my spare time in reading. I employ all my energies in writing.
employment; service: to be in someone's employ.
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Origin of employ

First recorded in 1425–75; late Middle English employen, from Anglo-French, Middle French emploier, ultimately derived from Latin implicāre “to enfold” (Late Latin: “to engage”); see implicate


non·em·ploy·ing, adjectiveo·ver·em·ploy, verb (used with object)pre·em·ploy, verb (used with object)re·em·ploy, verb (used with object)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does employ mean?

To employ someone is to pay them to work. An employer employs employees.

The state of being employed is employment.

A more specific use of employ is as a noun meaning employment or service. This sense of the word is almost always used in phrases like in their employ. 

Employ also means to use, as in This task will require you to employ a different skill set.

Less commonly, employ can mean to keep one busy or occupy one, as in During flights I usually employ myself with some knitting. 

Example: My company employs more than 500 people.

Where does employ come from?

The first records of the word employ come from the 1400s. It ultimately derives from the Latin implicāre, meaning “to entangle” or “to engage” (the word engage is sometimes used to mean “to hire” or “to employ”). The words employer and employee came later. In employee, the suffix -ee indicates a person who is the object or beneficiary of employment.

While employees are often seen as the ones getting this benefit—and the benefits that sometimes come with it, such as health insurance—the employee-employer relationship is based on the exchange of work for money. This exchange is often formalized through some kind of contract or employment agreement, and employ is most often used in the context of official situations like this. Sometimes, a person may get paid by a company or person for work, but they may not consider themselves to be employed by that person or company—that is, they don’t consider themselves an employee. Such a person may be a freelancer, and they may consider themselves self-employed.

When employ is used as a general synonym for use, it’s often employed in situations involving the use of something in a specific way or for a specific purpose, as in He’s employing rhetoric to create division.

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How is employ used in real life?

Employ is commonly used both in reference to paying someone to work and as another word for use.



Try using employ!

Is employ used correctly in the following sentence?

I was in the employ of the same company for my entire career.

How to use employ in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for employ

/ (ɪmˈplɔɪ) /

verb (tr)
to engage or make use of the services of (a person) in return for money; hire
to provide work or occupation for; keep busy; occupycollecting stamps employs a lot of his time
to use as a meansto employ secret measures to get one's ends
the state of being employed (esp in the phrase in someone's employ)

Derived forms of employ

employable, adjectiveemployability, noun

Word Origin for employ

C15: from Old French emploier, from Latin implicāre to entangle, engage, from plicāre to fold
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012