early 15c., severaunce, "distinction, difference," also, of apprentices, "release from previous obligations," from Anglo-French, from Old French sevrance "separation, parting," from sevrer "to separate" (see sever). From mid-15c. as "act or fact of severing; state of being severed." The modern sense of "discharge from contract employment" is attested from 1941, probably an extension from modern legal use. Severance pay attested by 1942.
updated on July 06, 2022