[ em-ploi-muhnt ]
/ ɛmˈplɔɪ mənt /
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Definition of employment

an act or instance of employing someone or something.
the state of being employed; employ; service: to begin or terminate employment.
an occupation by which a person earns a living; work; business.
the total number of people gainfully employed or working.
an activity or the like that occupies a person's time: She found knitting a comforting employment for her idle hours.
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Origin of employment

First recorded in 1585–95; employ + -ment


non·em·ploy·ment, nouno·ver·em·ploy·ment, nounpro·em·ploy·ment, adjectivere·em·ploy·ment, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does employment mean?

Employment most generally means the state of having a paid job—of being employed.

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

Employment can also refer to the act of employing people, as in We’re working to increase our employment of women. 

Or it can refer to a person’s work or how they earn a living, as in What does he do for employment?

In the context of economics, employment is commonly used to mean the total number of people employed, such as in a country, as in Employment is up this quarter, with thousands of new jobs having been created. The opposite of this is unemployment—the total number of people who are unemployed (who do not have a job). Unemployment also commonly means the state of being unemployed.

Employ can also be used as a synonym of the verb use, and employment can be employed as a synonym of the noun use, as in The employment of artificial intelligence creates many ethical concerns. 

Example:In this economy, finding consistent employment is a challenge for many workers.

Where does employment come from?

Employment is a noun form of the verb employ, which is first recorded in the 1400s. Employ ultimately derives from the Latin implicāre, meaning “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 employment 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 in the employment of that person or company—that is, they don’t consider themselves an employee.

Workers’ employment is sometimes discussed in terms of whether it’s full-time or part-time.

When employment refers to the total number of people employed, it’s often used in news reports that discuss whether employment numbers are “up” (meaning the total has increased since the last time it was measured) or “down” (meaning it has decreased).

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What are some other forms related to employment?

What are some synonyms for employment?

What are some words that share a root or word element with employment

What are some words that often get used in discussing employment?

How is employment used in real life?

Employment is most commonly used in the context of jobs. When it’s used to as another word for the noun use, it’s somewhat formal.



Try using employment!

Is employment used correctly in the following sentence?

Employment has been down for the last three quarters, but it’s expected to bounce back.

How to use employment in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for employment

/ (ɪmˈplɔɪmənt) /

the act of employing or state of being employed
the work or occupation in which a person is employed
the purpose for which something is used
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