Is there a word or phrase for temporarily not working since one has gone on vacation?

I thought out of work could be used but that means unemployed or having lost one's job


I am looking for a more general word that is applicable that may also be used when one is sick or just taking leave to stay with family

  • How about on vacation?
    – Jim
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 1:54
  • I am looking for a more general word that is applicable when one is sick or just taking leave to stay with family
    – Stat-R
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 1:57
  • 1
    Who is the audience or what is the situation? It kinda depends on whether you're writing HR documentation, setting an auto-reply email or talking on the phone at work to an unknown party.
    – Adam
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 2:19
  • According to the Canadian thread now active, you can say that you book off work.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 22:18
  • The simplest way to say it is "gone to check out stuff, back in 30 min" without specifying who, where, when. Works all the time.
    – user69781
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 22:46

7 Answers 7


You can always say "I will be unavailable (or out of the office) until February 27th with limited ability to check e-mail or voicemail". That is ambiguous in terms of why you're not working, but is still informative.

  • 2
    This is the most professional way: no need to go into details and explaining your professional contacts where you went, what disease you have or why you are depressed. Just a generic, polite message: "I can't work".
    – Konerak
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 7:34
  • This might be a suitable way of phrasing an auto-reply from your office email address, but it's not much good in all the other contexts where you're explaining to your next-door-neighbours, for example, why you haven't been getting in your car and driving off to work as normal for the past few mornings. Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 16:50
  • @FumbleFingers, I didn't get the sense that is what the OP is looking for, though you're right. Depending on the relationship, neighbors, friends and family would get anything from a quick knock on the door, specific phone call, e-mail or even no explanation whatsoever. Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 16:58
  • I don't see OP provides any justification one way or another for "getting a sense" of who he might be telling this to. But if your child says "There's a school trip to the zoo on the 26th, and teacher asked if any parents could come along to help look after us, but I told them you couldn't because you'd be at work". You could hardly say "Actually I'm unavailable until the 27th, so I'd love to come!" Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 17:15
  • Ok, @FumbleFingers, since the OP stated specifically that the need is related to conveying they're not working, and the audience is not specified, apply one of my choices from comment above...kid's teacher = phone call or e-mail, "I'm free that day, I'd love to come!" My answer is for a business scenario. :-) Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 17:43

Maybe one of these simple words: “missing”, “absent”, “away”, “not present” or “off”.

(I think “away” is nice)


Try focusing on location and be vague about it, focusing on where the person is not. You can probably get more specific if you know the party you're talking to and are sure that they aren't creepy.

"out of the office" + a period of time

Mrs. Smith will be out of the office until Tuesday.

"not in today"

Mr. Doe is not in today.

"out of town"


It's perfectly normal to say "I'm off work this afternoon/week/month" if you have a job but you're not actually working at it for some specified period of time (sickness, holiday, etc.).

For longer periods you might say something like taking a sabbatical, or on maternity/paternity leave, which implies your job is being held open until you return.

If you don't have that kind of "permanent position" (you're a freelance actor, for example) it's common to say you're between jobs, but that doesn't seem to apply to OP's circumstances.

  • Yes, or have the morning/day/week off. Off works nicely. You could even say ____ is off until Tuesday. Off is very versatile and can be a good introduction to any further information (or not).
    – Adam
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 19:05
  • @Adam: That was indeed my thinking, but most of the votes seem to have gone to answers that are primarily relevant to explaining to others in the work environment that you're "not there". (Perhaps ELL users are more "work-oriented" than most, so they don't automatically think of describing their situation to other people they don't actually work with! :) Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 19:12
  • Whether it's in speaking with coworkers or to others outside of the workplace, off works in either case, and it establishes a way to provide further information without committing to it. This answer also provides a common and concise context for the word off.
    – Adam
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 19:52
  • @Adam: Couldn't agree more. Yes, off has other meanings, but if all you had to go on was "I'm off tomorrow" (with the stress on off rather than tomorrow) you'd probably think the most likely sense was "I'm not working tomorrow". It should really have been asked on ELL anyway, since it's unlikely any native or otherwise competent speakers would need this information - and those that do would be better off learning the everyday term first (plus the corporate email system would probably auto-suggest "unavailable" when they needed it anyway! :) Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 21:49
  • It is a much better question for ELL, but that's in beta and arguably the question fits within the scope of the English site for being about word usage. At the same time, it is an awfully basic question.
    – Adam
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 3:43

The term hiatus may serve. It has senses that include “An interruption, break or pause” and “A vacation, break from work”.

Note, in the question What is a synonym for a casual hiatus?, terms intermission, recess, breather, interlude, and break are suggested as synonyms for hiatus. Some of those may also serve. Also consider on leave.

  • Sounds more like a vacation or a mental breakdown than being out sick--Hopefully there's FMLA or PTO to be had.
    – Adam
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 2:16

The term PTO Paid Time off, or sometimes Personal Time Off, is often used for both taking vacations and for sick-time, doctor's appointments, and in other eye problems- as in I just couldn't see coming to work. In fact many companies, in the US at least, officially call it PTO and make no distinction between traditional vacation days and sick days an simply provide a number of days of PTO that may be used either way.

As note though, at other companies I've worked for, the term vacation is used whenever personal time is taken regardless of the reason or duration so it is quite reasonable to hear, "He's taking a vacation day today" as well as, "He's taking PTO today."

As a further note the phrase, "He's off today" certainly means they're not working today, but is ambiguous as to whether it is because they were not scheduled to work or are taking PTO.

  • "I'm taking some time off", (you can reach me at...)
  • "I'm on a sabbatical/break", (you can reach me at...)

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