Furlough started as a word for time off from military duty. It spread from there to other types of time off, including an employer furloughing (or laying off) employees.

If you're in the military — a pretty tough job — you're probably looking forward to a furlough. That's a leave of absence or bit of time off, kind of like a break or vacation. That kind of a furlough is a great chance for some rest and relaxation. Outside the military, to furlough still means to grant a leave of absence to someone, but often it's a permanent vacation: if your boss furloughed you, he fired you.

Definitions of furlough

n a temporary leave of absence, especially from military duty

Type of:
leave, leave of absence
the period of time during which you are absent from work or duty

v grant a leave to

“The prisoner was furloughed for the weekend to visit her children”
Type of:
allow, countenance, let, permit
consent to, give permission

v dismiss, usually for economic reasons

lay off
dismiss from work
Type of:
can, dismiss, displace, fire, force out, give notice, give the axe, give the sack, sack, send away, terminate
terminate the employment of; discharge from an office or position

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