What is the difference between 'day off' and 'off day'? What I found is 'day off' means a holiday when you are not working, while 'off day' is the day when you do not work up to the mark. Can anyone put more light on this?

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    You mean, "Can anyone shed more light on this?" – flith Jul 15 '16 at 9:33
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    It is perfectly valid to say: "I'm having an off day, so I'll take the day off." – Bryce Wagner Jul 15 '16 at 13:18
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    @BryceWagner but not as likely to say that you are having a day off, so it is an off day. "A bad day of fishing is better than a good day working." – user126158 Jul 15 '16 at 18:06
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you are correct, the word "off" like many small english words has a large number of meanings, some of them are even opposites.

"day off" meaning "not present this day" Either scheduled break or due to dishonesty, illness or other emergency.

off(adverb) "away from a place"

"off day" meaning "not performing well this day"

off(adjective) "not up to standard; not so good or satisfactory as usual; inferior or subnormal"

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    dishonesty eg: feigning illness to get a day off. (see also Ferris Bueller's Day Off) – Jasen Jul 15 '16 at 9:47
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    "off" can also mean unfresh - beginning to be rotten, rancid, or spoiled (of food, etc). "I think the milk has gone off, it doesn't quite smell right." – J... Jul 15 '16 at 12:57
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    @JedSchaaf It's a common expression in Br.E - perhaps less so elsewhere? – J... Jul 15 '16 at 15:52
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    @J... In my experience (Am.E.) go off is used in reference to either a firearm accidentally or unexpectedly firing or someone becoming suddenly angry. It sounds odd to me being used to refer to rancid milk. – Jed Schaaf Jul 15 '16 at 16:17
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    @JedSchaaf In BrE, we might say food has gone bad or gone off; but we would not say milk (or any liquid) has gone bad - for that we would always use gone off. – TrevorD Jul 15 '16 at 23:20

Yes, a day off is a holiday for someone or a day that they have taken off:

  1. a day on which somebody usually and regularly does not have to work
  2. a day on which somebody is allowed not to come into work

An off day for someone can mean same as day off, or that they are having a bad day at work:

  1. informal if somebody has an off day, they do not perform as well as usual.
  2. [US] a day when people do not go to work.
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  • Both meanings have in common the idea that something is not behaving the way it usually behaves. – David Schwartz Jul 15 '16 at 10:06
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    I don't think of a day off as a holiday (day that everyone has off) but instead as a vacation day or comp day. – user126158 Jul 15 '16 at 18:10
  • I feel like for "off day" there would be a difference in the emphasis depending if one meant it as a day off, or as a bad day. an "OFF day" would be a day off. an "off DAY" would be a bad day. – Dave Cousineau Jul 15 '16 at 21:41
  • @nocomprende In the UK, "holiday" generally means "vacation" (unless used specifically to refer to a "public holiday" or "bank holiday") - we tend not to use the word "vacation". – TrevorD Jul 15 '16 at 23:26
  • @TrevorD wouldn't it be less confusing to have two different words for two different concepts? Then you wouldn't need to qualify the word 'holiday' with another word to change its meaning. – user126158 Jul 16 '16 at 14:23

I believe the existing answers may be a little narrow, so I'll expand here. These phrases do not need to be confined to lacking presence at work, school, etc.

"Day off" may refer to any non-work related task or a situation.

I have a day off of parenting because my kid's away at camp.

My upstairs neighbor is on vacation so I have a day off from having to listen to them stomping around.

"Off day" needs certain other cues when used as the different definitions. To be used similarly to "day off", it is typically used in future tense, to describe a date, or else has the situation explicitly followed by the location/task/experience.

July 4th was an off day.

Friday is an off day.

I went to the beach this afternoon because today is an off day at work.

Reference: [1] Corroboration: [2][3]

For "off day" to be used as a description of performance, emotion, or wellbeing, it's typically used in a more generic sense, used with "have", or else explicitly stated as pertaining to the speaker.

Today's just sort of an off day.

I was having a total off day yesterday.

Monday was such an off day for me.

Both of these phrases may also be used with other time indicators.

Christmas and New Years are both on weekends so to meet the required vacation days, they just gave us the whole week off!

It's just been an off month for me -- nothing's gone right for weeks!

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    To me, "off day" is about an experience, so it can never describe the future, and not be something chosen (or desired), rather like the word 'pain'. – user126158 Jul 15 '16 at 18:12
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    To be used the same as "day off", you can use it in any tense. Otherwise, I agree with you. – feelinferrety Jul 15 '16 at 18:13
  • I disagree with your second block of meanings (at least in BrE). Can you provide some substantiation of using "off day" to mean "day off", i.e. A day in which one does not go to work? – TrevorD Jul 15 '16 at 23:31
  • @TrevorD I'd say it's not common but I have personally used it. (AmE here) – feelinferrety Jul 16 '16 at 0:01
  • You having used it doesn't mean that it's correct usage — that's why this site prefers answers with third-party substantiation. – TrevorD Jul 16 '16 at 17:05

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