[ uhn-em-ploid ]
/ ˌʌn ɛmˈplɔɪd /
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not employed; without a job; out of work: an unemployed secretary.
not currently in use: unemployed productive capacity.
not productively used: unemployed capital.
noun Usually the unemployed .(used with a plural verb)
people who do not have jobs: programs to help the unemployed.
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Origin of unemployed

First recorded in 1590–1600; un-1 + employ + -ed2
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does unemployed mean?

Unemployed means not having a paid job—not being employed.

A person who’s described as unemployed is typically out of work and looking for a job. A person who’s retired, for example, wouldn’t be said to be unemployed.

Unemployed is sometimes used to refer to unemployed people collectively, as in These programs are intended to help the unemployed. 

The state of being unemployed is unemployment. The opposite of this is employment.

The verb employ also means to use, and unemployed can be used to mean unused, as in We shouldn’t let these resources go unemployed. 

Example: I was unemployed for a long time before I was recruited in Greenland by someone who finally saw my strengths.

Where does unemployed come from?

The first records of the word unemployed come from right around 1600. Its base word, employ, ultimately derives from the Latin implicāre, meaning “to engage” (the word engage is sometimes used to mean “to hire” or “to employ”).

When a person is unemployed, this usually means that they have lost a job without another one lined up. A person who has just quit or been laid off can be said to be recently unemployed, but unemployed often implies that the lack of employment has lasted a while. People who are unemployed are sometimes eligible for unemployment benefits, which are allowances of money paid to unemployed workers, such as by the government.

The similar term underemployed is used to describe a person who has a job, but is not working full-time or as many hours as they want to be.

The word unemployed should not be confused with the word unemployable, which most commonly means unsuitable for employment or unable to keep a job.

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What are some other forms related to unemployed?

What are some synonyms for unemployed?

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


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

How is unemployed used in real life?

Being unemployed is considered negative, but the term itself is typically used in a neutral way.


Try using unemployed!

Is unemployed used correctly in the following sentence?

Workers who are laid off in this industry are at risk of being unemployed for several months or longer.

How to use unemployed in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for unemployed

/ (ˌʌnɪmˈplɔɪd) /

  1. without remunerative employment; out of work
  2. (as collective noun; preceded by the)the unemployed
not being used; idle
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