- Date: 14th century
- 1 : freedom provided by the cessation of activities; especially : time free from work or duties
- 2 : ease, leisureliness
Leisure or free time, is a period of time spent out of work and essential domestic activity. It is also the period of recreational and discretionary time before or after compulsory activities such as eating and sleeping, going to work or running a business, attending school and doing homework, household chores, and day-to-day stress. The distinction between leisure and compulsory activities is loosely applied, i.e. people sometimes do work-oriented tasks for pleasure as well as for long-term utility. Distinction may also arise between free time and leisure. For example, criticism of consumer capitalism by the Situationist International maintains that free time is illusory and rarely free and instead, economic and social forces appropriate it from the individual and sell it back to him as a commodity in the form of leisure. Leisure studies is the academic discipline concerned with the study and analysis of leisure.
The notions of leisure and leisure time are thought to have emerged in Victorian Britain in the late nineteenth century, late in the Industrial Revolution. Early factories required workers to perform long shifts, often up to eighteen hours per day, with only Sundays off work. By the 1870s though, more efficient machinery and the emergence of trade unions resulted in decreases in working hours per day, and allowed industrialists to give their workers Saturdays as well as Sundays off work.
Affordable and reliable transport in the form of railways allowed urban workers to travel on their days off, with the first package holidays to seaside resorts appearing in the 1870s, a trend which spread to industrial nations in Europe and North America. As workers channeled their wages into leisure activities, the modern entertainment industry (beginning with the film industry) emerged in industrialized nations, catering to entertain workers on their days off. This Victorian concept—the weekend—heralded the beginning of leisure time as it is known today.