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From Middle English departement (ceasing, end), from Middle French département. Later senses borrowed from Modern French département.[1] Doublet of département.



department (plural departments)

  1. A part, portion, or subdivision.
  2. A distinct course of life, action, study, or the like.
    Technical things are not his department; he's a people person.
    • 2014 November 14, Stephen Halliday, “Scotland 1-0 Republic of Ireland: Maloney the hero”, in The Scotsman[1]:
      Flair and invention were very much at a premium, suffocated by the relentless pace and often fractious nature of proceedings. The absence of James Morrison from the centre of Scotland’s midfield, the West Brom man ruled out on the morning of the game by illness, had already diminished the creative capacity of the home side in that department.
    • 1856 December, [Thomas Babington] Macaulay, “Samuel Johnson”, in T[homas] F[lower] E[llis], editor, The Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches of Lord Macaulay, new edition, London: Longman, Green, Reader, & Dyer, published 1871, →OCLC:
      superior to Pope in Pope's own peculiar department of literature
  3. A specified aspect or quality.
    The 2012 Boston Marathon was outstanding in the temperature department; runners endured temperatures of no less than 88 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • 2024 February 12, Ben Morse and Steve Almasy, “Kansas City Chiefs defeat San Francisco 49ers in OT in Super Bowl LVIII, become first back-to-back NFL champions in 19 years”, in[2]:
      While the Chiefs superstar trails legendary quarterback Tom Brady in the Super Bowl wins department – the former Patriot and Tampa Bay Buccaneer has seven to Mahomes’ three – the chatter will only get louder and louder as to whether or not the 2023 Super Bowl MVP is the greatest of all time or not as he continues his career.
  4. A subdivision of an organization.
    1. (often in proper names) One of the principal divisions of executive government
      the Treasury Department; the Department of Agriculture; police department
    2. (in a university) One of the divisions of instructions
      the physics department; the history department; the math department
  5. A territorial division; a district; especially, in France, one of the districts into which the country is divided for governmental purposes, similar to a county in the UK and in the USA. France is composed of 101 départements organized in 18 régions, each department is divided into arrondissements, in turn divided into cantons.
    • 2002, Colin Jones, The Great Nation: France from Louis XV to the 1715-99, Penguin, published 2003, page 427:
      The departments were the bricks from which the edifice of the nation was to be constructed.
  6. (historical) A military subdivision of a country
    the Department of the Potomac
  7. (obsolete) Act of departing; departure.
    • 1624, Henry Wotton, The Elements of Architecture, [], London: [] Iohn Bill, →OCLC, II. part, page 104:
      For though Contraria iuxta ſe poſita magis illuceſcunt [opposites placed next to each other shine more brightly] (by an olde Rule) yet it hath beene ſubtilly, and indeede truely noted that our Sight, is not vvell contented, vvith thoſe ſudden departments, from one extreame to another; Therefore let them haue, rather a Duskiſh Tincture, then an abſolute blacke.


Derived terms[edit]


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See also[edit]


  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2024) “department”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.