Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


the time when you stop working, especially because you have reached the age when you are officially too old to work, or the act of doing this

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun retirement is a borrowing from the French ‘retirement’ which originally referred to the action of falling back or withdrawing. It has been used in English since the 16th century, with the meaning of ‘stopping work’ dating from the 17th century.


The noun retirement and its related verb, noun and adjective have had a number of meanings over the centuries. Before it meant the time when you stop work or the period of your life when you have done this, retirement referred to a retreat from a place or position, and then a retreat into seclusion or privacy. Retirement these days is often used to talk about sportspeople ending their professional careers, as well as about stopping work because you have reached retirement age. Someone who retires before the usual time is said to take early retirement. The verb retire has a number of current meanings, including to stop working, to stop playing sport professionally, and to leave a place in order to do something else, including to go to bed. Juries retire when they leave the court to consider their verdicts and a competitor who leaves a game or competition because they are ill or injured is also said to retire.  A retired person or retiree is someone who has stopped working permanently, while retiring is used before a noun to describe someone who is leaving their job. Someone who is retiring by nature, on the other hand, is shy and tends to avoid social activities. People sometimes come out of retirement, either for a special occasion, or because they need an extra income, or because they get bored, although many retired people claim to be so busy that they can’t imagine how they ever found time to work.


“The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.”
(Abe Lemons, basketball coach)

“An elegant sufficiency, content, Retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books.”
(James Thomson, The Seasons)

Related words

bow out, call it quits, clear your desk, hand in your notice

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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