[sev-er-uh ns, sev-ruh ns]
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  1. the act of severing or the state of being severed.
  2. a breaking off, as of a friendship.
  3. Law. a division into parts, as of liabilities or provisions; removal of a part from the whole.
  4. severance pay.

Origin of severance

1375–1425; late Middle English severaunce < Anglo-French; see sever, -ance
Related formsnon·sev·er·ance, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for severance


  1. the act of severing or state of being severed
  2. a separation
  3. law the division into separate parts of a joint estate, contract, etc
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

Word Origin and History for severance

early 15c., from Anglo-French, from Old French sevrance "separation, parting," from sevrer (see sever). Meaning "discharge from employment contract" is attested from 1941. Severance pay attested by 1942.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper