Vacation is a word that defines a leave of absence from a regular routine, whether it is a job, school, or any other daily routine. It is also known as a holiday in British English. A vacation could have different purposes: a trip or journey, recreation or tourism. Vacations are often taken by oneself, with friends, or with family.
When a vacation is longer than just a break from work, it is called a sabbatical, gap year, or career break.
Like many words that joined the English language in the Middle English period, vacation comes from Anglo-French, the kind of French spoken in medieval England, and ultimately from Latin: vacātiōn, which comes itself from vacātiō which means “exemption from service, respite from work“, and traces back to vacāre, “to be empty, be free, have leisure”, to be unoccupied.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the earliest use of the word vacation dates back to the 14th century and can be found in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, specifically in the Wife of Bath’s Prologue.
On the other hand, The Riverside Chaucer translates vacacioun as “spare time”.
It wasn’t until the late 19th century when the word adopted today’s meaning: “a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation”.
The concept of taking a vacation, a period away from home, work, or school, is a recent invention. It has become more popular in the last two centuries. Before its popularity, taking a vacation was thought of as something only wealthy people could afford.
In early America, taking a break from work for other purposes than religion was socially reproved. The concept of vacation was first introduced as a religious movement, in order to encourage retreat and recreation.
Soon, the concept of taking vacation started to spread among the middle and working class.
In the modern world, there are many policies and laws that reinforce the right of workers to take a vacation every year. Even in countries where there are no federal regulations when it comes to the leave of absence, like the United States, there are many corporations and companies that have their own vacation policies.