Definition of department in English:



  • 1A division of a large organization such as a government, university, or business, dealing with a specific area of activity.

    ‘the council's finance department’
    • ‘The website has been developed by the Arts department of Sligo County Council.’
    • ‘He said he plans to lodge a formal complaint with the legal department of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.’
    • ‘There was a department of Indian Theatre in the university through which I used to act.’
    • ‘This door in the terraced row led to the history department of the university, or at least the offices for the staff.’
    • ‘He ran a post office and now works in the education department of Rochdale council.’
    • ‘I am involved in a research project of the department of sociology at the University of Surrey.’
    • ‘The scheme is based on a proposal by the University of Paisley's department of economics.’
    • ‘The study was conducted at the emergency department of a university hospital.’
    • ‘The Mayor said he had been briefed on the case by the housing department of Kerry County Council.’
    • ‘Bilateral meetings between the Department of Finance and the other departments will begin next month.’
    • ‘How is it that the drama department of the University has achieved such distinguished output?’
    • ‘They came from five departments of the University of Vienna and one department of the University of Salzburg.’
    • ‘He left to join the finance department of Monklands Council, and found himself drawn into trade union work.’
    • ‘The matter has now been handed over to the environmental department of the City Council.’
    • ‘Neil Hewitt, who works in the housing department of Medway council in Kent, is hoping to train as an inspector.’
    • ‘I work in a department of about 150 people for the University of California, Davis.’
    • ‘At the time, he was enrolled in the law department of the prestigious University of Tokyo.’
    • ‘The University of Aruba has departments of law and business administration.’
    • ‘He was appointed a research fellow in the University of Toronto's department of surgery in 1950.’
    • ‘Pak Zen was a graduate from the department of library science at the University of Indonesia.’
    division, section, sector, subsection, subdivision, unit, branch, arm, wing, segment, compartment
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    1. 1.1An administrative district in France and other countries.
      ‘the turnout was particularly low in rural departments’
      • ‘Federal departments in France, Germany, China, and even the US have adopted Linux servers.’
      • ‘The country is divided into six departments containing eighty-four districts.’
      • ‘The occupation of the north-eastern departments of France throughout the war also helped to prolong this consensus.’
      • ‘The Prime Minister does not have a department to administer and this freedom gives him the opportunity to take a broad view.’
      • ‘The departments into which France was then divided remained unmodified until the twentieth century.’
      district, administrative district, canton, province, territory, state, county, shire, parish
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    2. 1.2informal An area of special expertise or responsibility.
      ‘that's not my department’
      • ‘I think Lyn needs to take a long look in the mirror before proclaiming herself an expert in this department.’
      • ‘And the Aussies, the world's sledging experts, reckon he is a soft touch in that department.’
      • ‘Ponting himself is relishing the responsibility because he has had a chequered past in that department.’
      domain, territory, realm, province, preserve, jurisdiction, sphere, sphere of activity, area, area of interest, field, line, speciality, specialism
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    3. 1.3informal [with modifier]A specified aspect or quality.
      ‘he was a bit lacking in the height department’
      • ‘And if you think that a car with no metal chassis has to be suspect in the strength department think again.’
      • ‘In the rhythm department bassist Jeff Halsey was unflappable and clearly has much to offer.’
      • ‘Political power and share in authority does affect every department and aspect of life.’


Late Middle English: from Old French departement, from departir (see depart). The original sense was ‘division or distribution’, later ‘separation’, hence ‘a separate part’ (core sense, mid 18th century).