Sabbatical or a sabbatical (from Latin sabbaticus, from Greek sabbatikos, from Hebrew shabbat, i.e., Sabbath, literally a "ceasing") is a rest from work, or a hiatus, often lasting from two months to a year. The concept of sabbatical has a source in shmita, described several places in the Bible (Leviticus 25, for example, where there is a commandment to desist from working the fields in the seventh year). In the strict sense, therefore, sabbatical lasts a year.
The foundational Bible passage for sabbatical concepts is Genesis 2:2-3, in which God rested (literally, "ceased" from his labor) after creating the universe, and it is applied to people (Jew and Gentile, slave and free) and even to beasts of burden in one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11, reaffirmed in Deuteronomy 5:12-15).
Biblical Sabbath is the origin of the present-day practice of "the weekend", Saturday and Sunday, in which most employees usually do not have scheduled work. Whereas Shabbat (or seventh-day Sabbath) and Christian Sabbath themselves are just one day per week each, both came to be taken off. Among Christians it was considered necessary to do preparatory tasks at home that would permit proper Sabbath observance (i.e., cessation from work) the next day.
In recent times, "sabbatical" has come to mean any extended absence in the career of an individual in order to achieve something. In the modern sense, one takes sabbatical typically to fulfill some goal, e.g., writing a book or traveling extensively for research. Some universities and other institutional employers of scientists, physicians, and/or academics offer the opportunity to qualify for paid sabbatical as an employee benefit, called sabbatical leave. Some companies offer unpaid sabbatical for people wanting to take career breaks; this is a growing trend in the United Kingdom, with 20% of companies having a career break policy, and a further 10% considering introducing one.
In the United States, academic sabbaticals are typically granted by an academic dean only if the faculty member who applies is qualified in terms of consistently high job performance, has demonstrated success in previous research, and possesses a well-conceived, well-planned, and promising research proposal that requires sustained effort. Sabbaticals are not granted automatically and usually are not even scheduled automatically. Provided the faculty applicant is first granted academic tenure, the opportunity to qualify for one's first sabbatical usually comes only after an initial waiting period that may vary. Thereafter, the opportunity to qualify for sabbatical typically follows at seven-year intervals of full-time employment. The most common arrangement is for a half-year at full pay, or a full year at half pay.
In British and Irish students' unions, particularly in higher education institutions, students can be elected to become sabbatical officers of their students' union, either taking a year out of their study (in the academic year following their election) or remaining at the institution for a year following completion of study. Sabbatical officers are usually provided with a living allowance or stipend.