A question for English natives: What words do you use to describe the following circumstances?
1) a day on which most people don't have to work
2) paid absence from work, at home
3) paid absense from work, somewhere else
4) travelling for personal enjoyment

Thanks! :)

Wow, thanks for all your replies so far!

As it turns out, I forgot something:

5) kids not having school while everyone else still works.

Coming back to this today, I learned quite a few things, so thanks again for all the interesting and helpful responses! :)

• It's a mess! Everything is “holiday(s)“ or “vacation“. There are more concise terms but they also get increasingly formal.
• “Vacation“ is an American word. Something that I totally didn't realize (or “realise“ for that matter) before. Maybe due to Spanish influences (“vacaciones“)?
• There is an informal word called “staycation“. Somewhat silly but widely understood.


1) Holiday
2) Vacation (or Stay-cation)
3) Vacation
4) Road trip?

I lived in 🇦🇺 / 🇳🇿 for about 4 years, so I already know the answer to all four of those would be Holiday. I guess 4 would be a "walk-about" if it's for like a long amount of unpaid time.

@esureL from a UK perspective:

> 1) a day on which most people don't have to work

Public holiday

> 2) paid absence from work, at home

Paid time off (PTO) / Holiday

> 3) paid absense from work, somewhere else


4) travelling for personal enjoyment


@irl So you're not using the term “vacation“ for any of these?

@esureL I think that is more of an American word.

@irl Oh, that's something I wouldn't have realized.

Well, or “realised“ for that matter. :D


@irl @esureL this is interesting because the only people I've ever met that use the term public holiday are from outside of the UK.

So could be a regional or demographic difference.

Like asking someone how to pronounce 'scone'.

@rpcutts This may be influenced by whatever your employer has chosen to use as they set the rules on taking time off work.

@rpcutts Out for curiosity: What versions of “scone“ exist? I can only really think of something like “skohn“. :D

@esureL @irl there are 2 competing theories, nay, religions.

There are those that say scone like gone.
And there are those that say scone like (ice cream) cone.

Then there is a similar war over whether you put the cream or jam on first when preparing a scone.

Don't forget the place, which is pronounced to rhyme with "soon"!
@esureL @irl


1) Bank Holiday
2 & 3) Day off or Holiday
4) Holiday or Traveling

Formally, an amount of paid time off work is often called annual leave. But usually just called holidays.

@esureL 1. holiday 2. holiday, vacation, paid time off (PTO), or staycation 3. holiday, vacation, or paid time off (PTO) 4. vacation

I'm from the USA and English is my first language.

@frummidge Thanks!
@djsumdog Was using the stay-cation term as well. Do you really use this word in a normal conversation? To me, it kinda sounds like the word is making fun of someone for not using the PTO to leave their home. :D

@esureL I think I first heard it from my old University roommate a few years back .. maybe like 2010 or 2011? Yea, I think it's a really recent thing, but I've heard it a couple times since then .. sometimes I do say it as a joke if someone at work says they're taking time off but just staying at home with their kids. But no I don't typically use it. I wouldn't say it's common usage, but I think many people have heard the term.

@esureL @djsumdog staycation is a word I'd use with my spouse and with acquaintances and colleagues at work, but not with close friends because it's a silly word (but concise in meaning). I see travel as an unaffordable luxury for most USA residents. Using PTO for small outings or seeing friends is more realistic. Often using PTO for doing major errands like updating your ID if the government office has a long line is also a necessity. So a staycation is a good use of PTO in my opinion.

@esureL @frummidge @djsumdog i agree staycation is a silly word. people started using it during the recession when even folks who usually traveled for vacation didn’t anymore.

we do (in the US) also often have “personal days” which is what we usually use for big errands like government id stuff or if repair folk need to be at our homes, etc. so we don’t eat into vacation time.

vacation time is planned and approved. personal titis sometimes like sick days and unplanned.

1) Holiday
2) vacation / stay-cation
2) vacation
3) vacation

I'm confused what the difference is between 3 and 4. If you're "traveling for personal enjoyment", aren't you by definition also on "paid absence from work, somewhere else"?

@Christian Thanks!

As for 4: Well, you could not work at all, be self-employed, in retirement already or just taking an unpaid absence.

In these situations, your travelling would be (more or less) independent from a job context. :)

I guess your situation in life would change how I'd answer. Eh, I think it's a bit poorly worded. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

@Christian In German, we have absence from work (“Urlaub haben“) vs. traveling (“in Urlaub fahren“, “im Urlaub sein“). I guess the closest translation is having vacation vs. going/being on (a) vacation.

Ex: Children or retired people could be on Urlaub (with their parents, with friends, ...) but not have Urlaub, as they aren't employed.

In everyday language, you could also have Urlaub e.g. from parenting, though.

However, that's why I was curios how/if 4) is handled in English. :)

1) Public holiday (or Bank Holiday if it is a Bank Holiday).
2) Taking leave
3) Taking leave
4) Holiday

(This from a UK perspective)

@JubalBarca Thanks! :)

So, you're not using the term “vacation“ for any of these?

Also, how common is the term “bank holiday“? Is there a difference between “bank holiday“ and “public holiday“?

@esureL A bank holiday (which is a very common term) is a formal legal designation for festival type days - Christmas, May Day, etc. I think pretty much all public holidays are bank holidays, though I guess you could sort of count weekends as public holidays that aren't bank holidays - bank holiday I suppose is a more technical term, but it's very commonly used.

And no - I'd very much think of vacation as more a US term, it wasn't in common usage in the area I grew up in at all.

@esureL school holidays or specific (summer holidays, Christmas holidays, Easter holidays, and half-term holidays)

5) kids not having school while everyone else still works.
PA days or PD days which stand for professional activity/development. (I had to google the definition.)

@Vallennes My statement might've been a bit misleading? I don't think that a six-year old has a week or two of “professional activity“ days rather two weeks of Easter holidays. :D

Haha no you were clear 😋 the 'development' is for the teachers, the kids just get the day off. If it's a holiday, like for Easter, then it's called a holiday. If it's a day off for students only, while everyone else goes to work, it's a PD day. Hope that made it clearer 😀

@esureL Not being a native English speaker, I am not authorative on that. But, I think this is the only case that has a unique, not overly formal term: break. Caveat is that it can, at least that is my experience, only be used qualified. That is, you have to specify which break it is: summer break, Christmas break, spring break,…. Usage examples would be: Where will you spend your summer break (no school)? In contrast to: where will you spend your summer vacation (implying family).

@esureL >Mein Mann ist Amerikaner, der sagt folgendes:
Zu 1. holiday.
Zu 2. und 3.: So etwas wie bezahlten Urlaub kennt er nicht, manche Arbeitgeber zahlen aber für Krankheitstage, das nennt sich dann "paid sick leave, paid sick days".
Zu 4.: Vacation.

From an employer perspective

1) bank holiday
2,3) annual leave
4) sabatical

@kyzh Where are you from?

Also, how do you refer to 4) from a normal person's perspective? For example, if your kids or your retired grandparents travel? :)

@esureL french living in the uk for ~10 years.

In a context kids/grand parents, then it is a visit / a stay over.
My patents are visiting us for the christmas holiday.
My kids are staying over at their mum for the christmas holiday.
People also refer as being off. I'm off for a week, I'm off until the 12.

I'm not native, but thats what people say.

@kyzh Thanks. :)

So my friend would be off to Spain for a relaxing beach ... holiday? I would've said vacation but I now understand that this in an American word.

@esureL yep.
Vacation is not big here in the south uk.

@esureL (Australian) 1) a public holiday; 2) a day or days off, if it's less than a week, otherwise it's leave; 3) a trip or a holiday; 4) travel, touring

@esureL 1) public holiday
2) sick day or day off
3) vacation [day] or [paid] leave
4) on vacation (American) or on holiday (British)

I'm from Toronto if that helps at all.
1) a day on which most people don't have to work
A holiday

2) paid absence from work, at home
Paid leave

3) paid absense from work, somewhere else
Vacation or paid leave depending on circumstances

4) travelling for personal enjoyment

American here!
1) holiday
2) if healthy: staycation (this is informal slang. Not everyone uses it, but it's widely understood). If sick: sick day. (Or "mental health day" for mental health issues.)
3) vacation
4) vacation

Holiday; vacation; vacation ; vacation ; school holiday

@esureL Hi there! British English speaker here, with bits and pieces of Scottish dialect mixed in. I would use "holiday" for all four definitions.

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