[ ley-awf, -of ]
/ ˈleɪˌɔf, -ˌɒf /
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the act of dismissing employees, especially temporarily.
a period of enforced unemployment or inactivity.
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Origin of layoff

1885–90, Americanism; noun use of verb phrase lay off


lay off, layoff
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What’s the difference between layoff and furlough?

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

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

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).

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.

Here’s an example of layoff and furlough 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 layoff and furlough.

Quiz yourself on layoff vs. furlough!

Should layoff or furlough be used in the following sentence?

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

How to use layoff in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for layoff

lay off

noun lay-off
the act of suspending employees
a period of imposed unemployment
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

Cultural definitions for layoff


The temporary or permanent removal of a worker from his or her job, usually because of cutbacks in production or corporate reorganization.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Other Idioms and Phrases with layoff

lay off


Terminate a person from employment. For example, When they lost the contract, they had to lay off a hundred workers. This expression formerly referred to temporary dismissals, as during a recession, with the idea that workers would be hired back when conditions improved, but with the tendency of businesses to downsize in the 1990s it came to mean “terminate permanently.” [First half of 1800s]


Mark off the boundaries, as in Let's lay off an area for a flower garden. [Mid-1700s]


Stop doing something, quit, as in Lay off that noise for a minute, so the baby can get to sleep, or She resolved to lay off smoking. [Early 1900s]


Stop bothering or annoying someone, as in Lay off or I'll tell the teacher. [Slang; c. 1900]


Place all or part of a bet with another bookmaker so as to reduce the risk. For example, Some bookmakers protect themselves by laying off very large bets with other bookmakers. [Mid-1900s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.