Laid Off Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

This is a complete guide to everything there is to know about the meaning of laid off. You’ll know its definition, how we came to use it, and more.

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Have you ever wondered why we use certain phrases? Sometimes the meaning of a phrase is so widely accepted that it can be difficult to know just where it phrase comes from or why it has its meaning. This guide will help you learn the meaning of the phrase “laid off,” and you’ll learn more about where the phrase comes from, too.

What Is the Meaning of Laid Off?

Laid off means an employer has decided to suspend or terminate a worker. This can be a temporary or permanent decision, and it is not necessarily a decision made based on the employee’s performance.

Being laid off is sometimes confused with being fired, but they are not the same. A firing is indicative of wrongdoing by an employee such as inefficiency or breach of duty. Being laid off still results in a job loss, but the reason or motivation is different.

What Is the Origin of the Phrase Laid Off?

As far back as the 1590s, to layoff meant a person removed, laid aside, or rid themselves of something. Later, in 1841, the phrase layoff would mean “stop working” or “be idle.” It wasn’t until 1892 that laid-off referred to dismissing an employee. Throughout the early 1900s, it adopted the meaning of temporary suspension from work, such as during slower periods. 

Laid off originally meant that a person was temporarily without work. However, the term evolved from the more temporary interruption to mean permanent termination of employment. 

Layoffs, whether temporary or permanent, can be for different reasons like:

  • Permanent elimination of a position
  • Redeployment
  • Corporate reorganization
  • Reduction in costs of employers

Because being laid off is not the same as being fired. An employee will not be laid off for reasons like:

  • Insufficient work
  • Not meeting company standards
  • Employee’s performance or unsatisfactory performance

How Do We Use the Phrase Laid Off?

A layoff can sometimes be part of a mass layoff where workforce reduction is used as a cost-cutting measure. In the early 1990s, it became a tendency of businesses to implement these larger-scale layoffs. When rumors of layoffs circulate, employees can become concerned about their job security. 

Before these permanent downsizing efforts, a layoff was a temporary suspension. Whether permanent or temporary, a company can conduct layoffs for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, the decision can have a psychological impact on the workers that remain, and it can affect their workplace behavior.

How Else Can I Refer to a Layoff?

Layoffs are often referred to by common euphemisms such as:

  • Downsizing 
  • Smart sizing 
  • Rightsizing 
  • Discharges.

Employees often refer to layoffs with slang terms such as:

  • Getting the pink slip 
  • Getting the sack
  • Getting the ax
  • Getting the boot
  • Getting the ole heave-ho
  • Receiving marching orders

Why Do Lay Offs Occur?

Laying off employees could be an effort to reduce costs by cutting salary expenditures. This strategy can mean an almost immediate increase in shareholder value. 

Beyond that, a company may perform layoffs as a business strategy to transition to new business objectives, change of processes, or a shift to automation. Businesses also turn to layoffs in the face of offshoring, outsourcing, and revenue declines.

What Happens After Someone Is Laid Off?

Unlike being fired, companies may offer employee benefits, severance pay, or healthcare after a layoff. However, employers may ask that employees not claim unemployment insurance in exchange for these benefits. It’s important that employees consider their options carefully, establish boundaries, and ask for clarification on important topics like how their last paycheck will be handled.

There is no easy way to recover from job loss, regardless of the reason, but some provisions such as unemployment benefits, COBRA coverage, and some government programs can help. 

COBRA is the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act that was passed to protect those who have experienced unemployment and their families from losing their healthcare on top of losing their job.

After being laid off, it’s important to prepare your resume, update your qualifications, and apply for new jobs. When discussing your termination, remember to handle it with maturity. You have nothing to be embarrassed about, but it’s also not a good idea to bash your former employer’s decision. About 26 percent of employees experience layoffs, so you are not alone.

In some countries, there are rules regarding how layoffs must be conducted. For example, in the UK, at least one week’s notice is required for employees who have worked for a company for between one month and two years. An additional week’s notice is required for every year after that. 

Companies should consider the ramifications of excess reduction of employees. To avoid the negative effects of layoffs and unemployment compensation costs, it may be wiser to eliminate unnecessary costs first. When massive changes are made in personnel management, a group of employees who feel they experienced wrongful termination may seek legal aid to pursue compensation.

What Are Synonyms for the Phrase Laid Off?

Synonyms are words or phrases that have the same meaning. When you examine a word’s synonyms, it’s easier to discern its meaning from similar, more familiar words. Here are synonyms for the phrase laid off:

  • Cease
  • Desist
  • End
  • Give up
  • Let go
  • Halt
  • Let up
  • Quit
  • Rest
  • Leave off

What Are Antonyms for the Phrase Laid Off?

Antonyms help us to gain more understanding of a word by revealing what it does not mean. When we see familiar words as antonyms, we can determine that the word has the opposite meaning. Here are a few antonyms for the phrase laid off:

  • Begin
  • Employ
  • Hire
  • Start

The Last Word

Being laid off is not a fun experience. However, now that you know what the phrase means, you can rest assured that it is not your fault if it happens to you, Your former employer may have their reasons, but you’ll need to focus on your future employment and your options. Consider requesting a letter of recommendation from your supervisor or examine your retirement benefits and whether you’re ready for early retirement. 


  1. Layoff Definition | Investopedia 
  2. Continuation of Health Coverage (COBRA) | US Department of Labor  
  3. Layoffs are more common than you’d think. Here’s how to recover from one | Fox Business