not employed; without a job; out of work: an unemployed secretary.
not currently in use: unemployed productive capacity.
not productively used: unemployed capital.


(used with a plural verb) people who do not have jobs (usually preceded by the): programs to help the unemployed.

Origin of unemployed

First recorded in 1590–1600; un-1 + employ + -ed2

Synonyms for unemployed

1. unoccupied, idle, at liberty, jobless.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for unemployed

Contemporary Examples of unemployed

Historical Examples of unemployed

  • It is those who are unemployed to whom expectation becomes an agony.

    Wilfrid Cumbermede

    George MacDonald

  • How to put the unemployed millions to work is the problem of the day.

  • His idleness, Emma; surely, you don't mean that; he's seldom if ever unemployed.

    The Settlers in Canada

    Frederick Marryat

  • It is that unemployed force in our hearts which is striving for union with others.

    The Choice of Life

    Georgette Leblanc

  • Her son had not this gift; or, if he had, he left it unemployed.


    Dinah Maria Craik, (AKA Dinah Maria Mulock)

British Dictionary definitions for unemployed



  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

Word Origin and History for unemployed

1600, "at leisure, not occupied," from un- (1) "not" + past participle of employ. Meaning "temporarily out of work" is from 1660s. The noun meaning "unemployed persons collectively" is from 1782; unemployment first recorded 1888.

[Say the] voices of the unemployed ...
No man has hired us
With pocketed hands
And lowered faces
We stand about in open places
And shiver in unlit rooms ...

[T.S. Eliot, "Choruses from the Rock"]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper