Alternative formsEdit


Borrowed from Middle French employer, from Latin implicare (to infold, involve, engage), from in (in) + plicare (to fold). Compare imply and implicate, which are doublets of employ .


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


employ (plural employs)

  1. The state of being an employee; employment.
    The school district has six thousand teachers in its employ.
    • 1856, “Treaty signed April 18, 1855; ratified April 5, 1856”, in Treaty of friendship and commerce between Great Britain and Siam, Bangkok: J. H. Chandler, page 7:
      If Siamese in the employ of British subjects offend against the laws of their country,
    • 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped
      “And so you see, sir,” said I, “there is something to be said upon my side; and this gambling is a very poor employ for gentlefolks. But I am still waiting your opinion.”
  2. (obsolete) The act of employing someone or making use of something; employment.
    • 1833, R. J. Bertin, Charles W. Chauncy, transl., Treatise on the Diseases of the Heart, and Great Vessels, Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blnachard, page 24:
      Notwithstanding the employ of general and local bleeding, blisters, &c., the patient died on the fourth day after entrance.


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

  1. To hire (somebody for work or a job).
    Yesterday our local garage employed a new mechanic.
    • 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.
  2. To use (somebody for a job, or something for a task).
    Synonyms: apply, use, utilize
    The burglar employed a jemmy to get in.
    • c. 1603–1604, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Othello, the Moore of Venice”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act I, scene iii], page 313, column 1:
      Valiant Othello, we muſt straight employ you, / Againſt the generall Enemy Ottoman.
    • 1715 April 10, Joseph Addison, “The Free-holder: No. 29. Wednesday, March 30. [1715.] [Julian calendar]”, in The Works of the Right Honourable Joseph Addison, Esq; [], volume IV, London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], published 1721, OCLC 1056445272:
      This is a day in which the thoughts [] ought to be employed on serious subjects.
    • 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 7, Gary Younge, “Hypocrisy lies at heart of Manning prosecution”, in The Guardian Weekly[1], volume 188, number 26, page 18:
      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.
  3. To make busy.

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