Etymology
Advertisement
department (n.)

c. 1500, "a ceasing, an ending; a going away, act of leaving" (obsolete in this sense), from Old French departement "division, sharing out; divorce, parting" (12c.), from Late Latin departire "to divide" (transitive), from de- "from" (see de-) + partire "to part, divide," from pars (genitive partis) "a part, piece, a share, a division" (from PIE root *pere- (2) "to grant, allot").

French department came also to mean "group of people" (as well as "departure"), and from this by 1735 English had borrowed the sense of "separate division of a complex whole, separate business assigned to someone in a larger organization, distinct branch or group of activities" (science, business, manufacture, the military). The specific meaning "separate division of a government" is from 1769. As an administrative district in France, from 1792.

Department store "store that sells a variety of items, organized by department" is from 1878.

The "Department Store" is the outgrowth of the cheap counter business originated by Butler Brothers in Boston about ten years ago. The little "Five Cent Counter" then became a cornerstone from which the largest of all the world's branches of merchandising was to be reared. It was the "Cheap Counter" which proved to the progressive merchant his ability to sell all lines of wares under one roof. It was the Five Cent Counter "epidemic" of '77 and '78 which rushed like a mighty whirlwind from the Atlantic to the Pacific and all along its path transformed old time one line storekeepers into the wide-awake merchant princes of the present day. It was this same epidemic which made possible the world famed Department Stores of Houghton, of Boston; Macy, of New York; Wanamaker, of Philadelphia; and Lehman, of Chicago. [American Storekeeper, 1885] 
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
dept. 
abbreviation of department, attested from 1869.
Related entries & more 
departmental (adj.)

1791, "pertaining to a (French) department, pertaining to a division of a country," from French départmental, from département (see department). Meaning "of departmental systems generally" from 1832. Related: Departmentally.

Related entries & more 
*pere- (2)

*perə-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to grant, allot" (and reciprocally, "to get in return"); possibly related to *pere- (1) "to produce, procure."

It forms all or part of: apart; apartment; bipartient; bipartisan; bipartite; compartment; depart; department; ex parte; impart; jeopardy; multipartite; parcel; parse; part; partial; participate; participation; particle; particular; particulate; partisan; partition; partitive; partner; party; portion; proportion; quadripartite; repartee; tripartite.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit purtam "reward;" Hittite parshiya- "fraction, part;" Greek peprotai "it has been granted;" Latin partem (nominative pars) "a part, piece," portio "share, portion."

Related entries & more 
MI5 
1939, from abbreviation of Military Intelligence, followed by the department number.
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
obstetrics (n.)

"science of midwifery, the department of medicine which deals with the treatment and care of women during pregnancy and childbirth," 1819, from obstetric (adj.); also see -ics.

Related entries & more 
phycology (n.)

"study of seaweeds, the department of botany that treats of algae or seaweed," 1847, from phyco- + -logy. Related: Phycological; phycologist.

Related entries & more 
COBOL (n.)

computer programming language for use in business operations, 1960, U.S. Defense Department acronym, from "Common Business-Oriented Language."

Related entries & more 
Girondist (n.)
1795, member of the moderate republican party of France, 1791-93, from Gironde, name of a department in southwestern France; the faction so called because its leaders were deputies elected from there.
Related entries & more 
ichthyology (n.)

"the science of fishes; the department of zoology which treats of fishes," 1640s, from ichthyo- "fish" + -logy. Related: Ichthyologist; ichthyological.

Related entries & more