1. A distinct, usually specialized division of a large organization, especially:
a. A principal administrative division of a government: the department of public works.
b. A division of a business specializing in a particular product or service: the personnel department.
c. A division of a school or college dealing with a particular field of knowledge: the physics department.
2. Department One of the principal executive divisions of the federal government of the United States, headed by a cabinet officer.
3. A section of a department store selling a particular line of merchandise: the home furnishings department.
4. An administrative district in France.
5. A unit of a warship's crew, organized by function, such as gunnery or engineering.
6. An area of particular knowledge or responsibility; a specialty: Getting the kids to bed is my department.
[French département, from Old French, separation, from departir, to divide; see DEPART.]
de′part·mental (dē′pärt-mĕntl) adj.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.