View synonyms for furlough


[ fur-loh ]


  1. Military. a vacation or leave of absence granted to an enlisted person.
  2. a usually temporary layoff from work:

    Many plant workers have been forced to go on furlough.

  3. a temporary leave of absence authorized for a prisoner from a penitentiary.

verb (used with object)

  1. to grant a furlough to.
  2. to lay (an employee or worker) off from work, usually temporarily.


/ ˈfɜːləʊ /


  1. leave of absence from military duty
  2. a temporary laying-off of employees, usually because there is insufficient work to occupy them


  1. to grant a furlough to
  2. to lay off (staff) temporarily

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Other Words From

  • pre·furlough noun

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Word History and Origins

Origin of furlough1

First recorded in 1615–25; variant of earlier furloff, furlogh, from Dutch verlof “dismissal, permission to leave,” appparently from Middle Low German vorlōf, noun derivative of vorlöven “to permit (to leave),” blend of vor- for- and erlöven “to allow, permit” ( a- 3( def ), leave 2( def ) ); cognate with German erlauben, verlauben, Gothic uslaubjan, Old English ālīefan “to allow, permit”; current pronunciation by association with dough, etc.

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Word History and Origins

Origin of furlough1

C17: from Dutch verlof , from ver- for- + lof leave, permission; related to Swedish förlof

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Example Sentences

Two of the nation’s largest airlines said tens of thousands of workers again could face furloughs as demand for air travel continues to lag amid the slow rollout of coronavirus vaccines and new testing requirements for international travelers.

Events have been canceled, advertising deals have been pulled and layoffs and furloughs have been a harsh reality.

From Digiday

The budget does not include any widespread layoffs or furloughs of state employees.

This winter, a scattering of hospitality brands are finding ways to innovate and offer new experiences during the pandemic as the industry continues to weather the fight against ongoing closures, furloughs and layoffs.

Association president Marshall Weston said the bans on indoor dining in Montgomery and Prince George’s and on indoor and outdoor dining in Baltimore City have led to layoffs and furloughs amid the Christmas holiday season.

Days later, after four years in jail, Tavakoli was freed on furlough.

With more than 2/3 of CIA civilians on furlough, a number of worst-case situations became far more likely.

No one can claim that the harm to national security was unclear while the government was on a forced furlough.

Suddenly she has the power to furlough people, so she uses it.

These are employees already being effected by furlough brought under the sequester.

His father was a civilian in India, and was returning on furlough to England, after a long absence.

A captain in the Austrian army actually sought a furlough, giving as his reason that he desired to kill Napoleon.

But the soldier or the sailor after long years of service gets leave to return to his home on a furlough or a discharge.

It looks now as if a ride in an aëroplane might not be a strange experience in our third furlough.

The furlough, which was to expire on the 15th of August, was afterward extended by Anjou to the 1st of October.


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Furlough Vs. Layoff

What’s the difference between furlough and layoff?

A furlough is a temporary release of a worker from their job, typically with the expectation that they will be asked to return. A layoff is usually a permanent removal from a job.

Both words can also be used as verbs. An organization can furlough employees or lay off employees. The adjective forms are furloughed and laid off. 

A furlough typically involves an employer requiring an employee to stop working for a period of time during which they will not get paid—though furloughed workers sometimes keep their benefits, such as health insurance. Furloughs can happen during government shutdowns or when a company does not need certain employees for a certain period of time but expects to need them back after that period ends.

The word layoff is typically used in the context of a company permanently letting go workers due to economic reasons (such as not being able to afford to pay them) as opposed to performance reasons (employees let go for poor performance are typically said to have been fired).

Here’s an example of furlough and layoff used correctly in a sentence.

Example: A furlough is not ideal, but at least it’s temporary—the company is doing it to avoid layoffs.

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between furlough and layoff.

Quiz yourself on furlough vs. layoff!

Should furlough or layoff be used in the following sentence?

The company ordered a one-month _____ of its employees during the closure.