On Leave: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
June 11, 2023

The idiom "on leave" typically refers to a temporary absence from one's work duties, often due to vacation, health reasons, or personal matters. In a broader context, it may denote a pause or break from any ongoing responsibility or commitment.

In short:

"On leave" typically signifies a temporary pause from work or duties, sanctioned by an authority or institution.

What Does "On Leave" Mean?

The phrase suggests a state of authorized absence from work or duties for a certain period of time. This could be due to various reasons such as vacation, illness, personal matters, or parental responsibilities. It often conveys the idea of respite and restoration.

Let's explore its core meanings:

  • It often refers to a temporary break from work granted by an employer.
  • It can also denote a pause from responsibilities or duties for personal reasons.
  • The term is widely used in formal and professional contexts.

Where Does "On Leave" Come From?

The phrase "on leave" comes from the Old English word "lǣfan," which means "to leave." In the Middle Ages, the word "lǣfan" was also used to mean "permission" or "liberty." By the 17th century, the phrase "on leave" was used to describe someone who was absent from their job or duty with permission.

Historical Example

"An Army Officer on Leave in Japan"

- by Louis Mervin Maus, 1911

"An Army Officer on Leave in Japan" is written in 1911 by Louis Mervin Maus, an American military officer. The book is essentially a travelogue detailing Maus's experiences and observations while on leave in Japan as well as the surrounding regions, including the Philippines and Formosa (now Taiwan).

10 Examples of "On Leave" in Sentences

Here are some examples of using the idiom in sentences:

  • The manager is on leave this week, so the assistant manager is handling her duties.
  • I am on leave effective immediately, needing some time off for personal matters.
  • After her surgery, she was on leave for six weeks to recover.
  • Having completed the project successfully, my work here is done, and I'm going on leave to rejuvenate.
  • I'm on leave until November. I've decided to stay home to take care of my newborn child.
  • Several professors are on leave this semester, so some courses had to be rescheduled.
  • Good going. John has managed his tasks efficiently and is now on leave for a well-deserved vacation.
  • Our team lead is on leave, so we have to manage the project without him.
  • In line with company policy, Jane is on leave for two weeks to attend to her health.
  • As a new parent, he is on leave to spend time with his newborn baby.

Examples of "On Leave" in Pop Culture

The phrase "on leave" appears occasionally in pop culture, often in narratives involving work or military service.

Let's examine some examples:

  • "On Leave: A Book of Anecdotes" is a work by Keith Tuma, published in 2011. The book is a unique collection of literary anecdotes and observations, presented in a modular prose style that follows the author's experiences during a year-long leave.
  • "On Leave" is a song by the English progressive rock band Barclay James Harvest. Released in 2013, the track is part of their studio album "North."
  • "Diary of a Dead Man on Leave" is a historical espionage novel by bestselling author David Downing, published in 2019. The book is set in Germany during the late 1930s, in the tense and tumultuous days leading up to World War II.

Other/Different Ways to Say "On Leave"

There are several alternative expressions that convey a similar meaning to "on leave."

Here are some of them:

  • Away
  • Off work
  • Out of office
  • Taking a break
  • Off duty

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "On Leave":

  • What does "on leave" mean?

"On leave" generally refers to a state of authorized absence from work or duties for a certain period of time.

  • How can I use "on leave" in a sentence?

You can use "on leave" to denote a sanctioned absence from work or duties. For example, "She is on leave for the next two weeks."

  • Where does the idiom "on leave" come from?

The term originated in military language, used to describe an official absence from duty. It has since been adapted to civilian life and professional contexts.

  • Is "on leave" a formal term?

Yes, "on leave" is typically used in formal and professional contexts.

  • Does "on leave" only refer to vacation?

No, while it often refers to a vacation, it can also denote a temporary absence from work for various reasons such as health, personal matters, or parental responsibilities.

  • Is being "on leave" a paid or unpaid situation?

It can be either, depending on the organization's policies and the nature of the leave.

  • Can "on leave" refer to a permanent departure from work?

Generally, no. "On leave" typically denotes a temporary absence with the expectation of return.

  • Does "on leave" apply to students?

Yes, students can also be "on leave" from their studies for a semester or a year.

  • Can you be "on leave" from non-work related duties?

Yes, in a broader context, "on leave" can be used to signify a pause or break from any ongoing commitment or responsibility.

  • Does "on leave" imply relaxation or leisure?

Not necessarily. The term simply denotes an absence from duties and doesn't inherently specify the activities undertaken during this time.

Final Thoughts About "On Leave"

The term "on leave" refers to an authorized absence from work or duties for a certain period of time. It is a formal expression often used in professional or military contexts.

Here's a quick recap:

  • The phrase often denotes an authorized break from work or responsibilities, either paid or unpaid.
  • While traditionally military in origin, it has been adapted to civilian life and various professional contexts.
  • "On leave" does not inherently specify the activities undertaken during this time.

The term recognizes our need for breaks and the importance of balancing work and personal life. Understanding its use can foster empathy and respect for those taking time away from their duties and help create a more supportive and understanding environment in various aspects of life.

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