Definition of department in US English:



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

    ‘the English department’
    • ‘The University of Aruba has departments of law and business administration.’
    • ‘I am involved in a research project of the department of sociology at the University of Surrey.’
    • ‘Pak Zen was a graduate from the department of library science at the University of Indonesia.’
    • ‘At the time, he was enrolled in the law department of the prestigious University of Tokyo.’
    • ‘The study was conducted at the emergency department of a university hospital.’
    • ‘He left to join the finance department of Monklands Council, and found himself drawn into trade union work.’
    • ‘This door in the terraced row led to the history department of the university, or at least the offices for the staff.’
    • ‘The matter has now been handed over to the environmental department of the City Council.’
    • ‘How is it that the drama department of the University has achieved such distinguished output?’
    • ‘He was appointed a research fellow in the University of Toronto's department of surgery in 1950.’
    • ‘He ran a post office and now works in the education department of Rochdale council.’
    • ‘The scheme is based on a proposal by the University of Paisley's department of economics.’
    • ‘There was a department of Indian Theatre in the university through which I used to act.’
    • ‘Bilateral meetings between the Department of Finance and the other departments will begin next month.’
    • ‘He said he plans to lodge a formal complaint with the legal department of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.’
    • ‘The website has been developed by the Arts department of Sligo County 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.’
    • ‘The Mayor said he had been briefed on the case by the housing department of Kerry County Council.’
    • ‘They came from five departments of the University of Vienna and one department of the University of Salzburg.’
    division, section, sector, subsection, subdivision, unit, branch, arm, wing, segment, compartment
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    1. 1.1 An administrative district in France and other countries.
      • ‘The departments into which France was then divided remained unmodified until the twentieth century.’
      • ‘The Prime Minister does not have a department to administer and this freedom gives him the opportunity to take a broad view.’
      • ‘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.’
      district, administrative district, canton, province, territory, state, county, shire, parish
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    2. 1.2one's departmentinformal An area of special expertise or responsibility.
      ‘that's not my 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.’
      • ‘I think Lyn needs to take a long look in the mirror before proclaiming herself an expert in this 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.
      ‘I never thought of myself as above average in the looks department’
      • ‘Political power and share in authority does affect every department and aspect of life.’
      • ‘In the rhythm department bassist Jeff Halsey was unflappable and clearly has much to offer.’
      • ‘And if you think that a car with no metal chassis has to be suspect in the strength department think again.’


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).