also lay-off, lay off; 1889, "rest, relaxation, respite;" from the verbal phrase; see lay (v.) + off (adv.). Via seasonal labor with periodic inactivity, it came to have a sense of "temporary release from employment," and by 1960s was being used somewhat euphemistically for permanent releases of masses of workers by employers. The verbal phrase lay off is attested from 1841 (colloquial) as "stop working, be idle" (intransitive); 1892 as "dismiss" (an employee); meaning "stop disturbing" is from 1908. Its oldest sense is "remove and lay aside, rid oneself of" (1590s).
updated on May 22, 2016