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noun, bu·reau \ˈbyu̇r-(ˌ)ō, ˈbyər-\

Simple Definition of bureau

  • : a government department or part of a government department in the U.S.

  • : an office of a newspaper, magazine, etc., that is not the main office but is in an important city

  • : an office or organization that provides services or information to the public

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of bureau

plural bureaus also bureaux play \-(ˌ)ōz\

  1. 1 a British :  writing desk; especially :  one having drawers and a slant top b :  a low chest of drawers for use in a bedroom

  2. 2 a :  a specialized administrative unit; especially :  a subdivision of an executive department of a government b :  a branch of a newspaper, newsmagazine, or wire service in an important news center c :  a usually commercial agency that serves as an intermediary especially for exchanging information or coordinating activities <credit bureau>

Examples of bureau in a sentence

  1. the Federal Bureau of Investigation

  2. The book is on top of my bureau.

Origin of bureau

French, desk, cloth covering for desks, from Old French burel woolen cloth, from Old French *bure, from Late Latin burra shaggy cloth

First Known Use: 1699

Other Furniture and Woodworking Terms

Rhymes with bureau

BUREAU Defined for Kids


noun bu·reau \ˈbyu̇r-ō\

Definition of bureau for Students

  1. 1 :  a low chest of drawers for use in a bedroom

  2. 2 :  a division of a government department <the Federal Bureau of Investigation>

  3. 3 :  a business office that provides services <a travel bureau>

History for bureau

A chest of drawers and an office, which are two of the meanings of the word bureau, do not seem to have much of a connection. In French, from which we have borrowed the word, bureau originally referred to a piece of rough cloth used to protect the surface of a desk. But its meaning expanded so that it could also refer to the desk itself, and to the room containing the desk, that is, an office. On some bureaus with lots of drawers the writing surface could be raised and closed to form a slanting top. In the United States a chest of drawers without any writing surface came to be called a bureau.

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up bureau? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to dishevel or rumple

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