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Alternative forms[edit]


  • IPA(key): /ɪmˈplɔɪ/, /ɛmˈplɔɪ/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɔɪ

Etymology 1[edit]

From late Middle English emploien, imploien, emplien (to apply to a specific purpose), from Anglo-Norman emploier, Old French emploiier (to entangle, fabricate, to make use of),[1][2] ultimately from Latin implicāre (to infold, entangle, involve, engage), from in- (in) + plicāre (to fold). Doublet of imply and implicate.


employ (third-person singular simple present employs, present participle employing, simple past and past participle employed)

  1. To retain (someone) as an employee.
    Our company employs hundreds of people.
    • 1668 July 3rd, James Dalrymple, “Thomas Rue contra Andrew Houſtoun” in The Deciſions of the Lords of Council & Seſſion I (Edinburgh, 1683), page 547
      Andrew Houſtoun and Adam Muſhet, being Tackſmen of the Excize, did Imploy Thomas Rue to be their Collector, and gave him a Sallary of 30. pound Sterling for a year.
    • 1959, Georgette Heyer, chapter 1, in The Unknown Ajax:
      Charles had not been employed above six months at Darracott Place, but he was not such a whopstraw as to make the least noise in the performance of his duties when his lordship was out of humour.
    • 2012 May 24, Farhad Manjoo, “BOMBSHELL: Business Insider Kinda Brilliant”, in Slate[1], archived from the original on 2023-06-05:
      The site—which was established in its current form in 2009—employs 60 people and says it gets 12 million visitors a month.
  2. (rare) To provide (someone) with a new job; to hire.
    Yesterday our local garage employed a new mechanic.
  3. To use (someone or something) for a job or task.
    Synonyms: apply, use, utilize
    The burglar employed a jemmy to get in.
    • c. 1603–1604 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Othello, the Moore of Venice”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act I, scene iii], page 313, column 1:
      Valiant Othello, we muſt straight employ you, / Againſt the generall Enemy Ottoman.
    • 1715 April 10 (Gregorian calendar), Joseph Addison, “The Free-holder: No. 29. Wednesday, March 30. [1715.]”, in The Works of the Right Honourable Joseph Addison, Esq; [], volume IV, London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], published 1721, →OCLC:
      This is a day in which the thoughts [] ought to be employed on serious subjects.
    • 1765, William Blackstone, “Of Corporations”, in Commentaries on the Laws of England, book I (Of the Rights of Persons), Oxford, Oxfordshire: [] Clarendon Press, →OCLC, page 469:
      As to eleemoſynary corporations, by the dotation the founder and his heirs are of common right the legal viſitors, to ſee that that property is rightly employed, which would otherwiſe have deſcended to the viſitor himſelf: []
    • 2013 May-June, Charles T. Ambrose, “Alzheimer’s Disease”, in American Scientist, volume 101, number 3, page 200:
      Similar studies of rats have employed four different intracranial resorbable, slow sustained release systems—surgical foam, a thermal gel depot, a microcapsule or biodegradable polymer beads.
    • 2013 June 2, Gary Younge, “Hypocrisy lies at the heart of the trial of Bradley Manning”, in Alan Rusbridger, editor, The Guardian[2], London: Guardian News & Media, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2023-05-17:
      Having lectured the Arab world about democracy for years, its collusion in suppressing freedom was undeniable as protesters were met by weaponry and tear gas made in the west, employed by a military trained by westerners.
    • 2015 August 22, John Schwartz, “Study Finds Surprising Byproduct of Middle Eastern Conflicts: Cleaner Air”, in The New York Times[3], New York, N.Y.: The New York Times Company, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2022-06-16:
      That insight may not seem surprising, given war's dampening effects on economic activity. But the research employed a new tool for recognizing the effects.
    • 2018, Jhariah Clare (lyrics and music), “City of Ashes”, in The Great Tale of How I Ruined it All:
      Whatever they employ, I’ll exploit, make null and void!
  4. To make busy; to preoccupy.
    Synonyms: occupy, busy
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Borrowed from French emploi (job, employment), the deverbal from employer (to put to use, to employ), first attested in the late 17th century.[2]


employ (plural employs)

  1. The state of being an employee; employment.
    The school district has six thousand teachers in its employ.
  2. (archaic) An occupation.
    • 1837, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], “A London Life”, in Ethel Churchill: Or, The Two Brides. [], volume I, London: Henry Colburn, [], →OCLC, page 162:
      Still he wrote on. He was too much engrossed in his own charmed employ not to be insensible for a time to all external influences: he might suffer afterwards, but now his mind was his kingdom.
  3. (obsolete) The act of employing someone or making use of something; employment.
    • 1833, R. J. Bertin, translated by Charles W. Chauncy, Treatise on the Diseases of the Heart, and Great Vessels, Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard, page 24:
      Notwithstanding the employ of general and local bleeding, blisters, &c., the patient died on the fourth day after entrance.
Derived terms[edit]


  1. ^ emploien, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 employ”, in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1996–present.

Further reading[edit]