[byoo r-oh]

noun, plural bu·reaus, bu·reaux [byoo r-ohz] /ˈbyʊər oʊz/.

a chest of drawers, often with a mirror at the top.
a division of a government department or an independent administrative unit.
an office for collecting or distributing news or information, coordinating work, or performing specified services; agency: a travel bureau; a news bureau.
Chiefly British. a desk or writing table with drawers for papers.

Origin of bureau

1710–20; < French: desk, office, originally a kind of cloth (used to cover desks, etc.), Anglo-French, Old French burel, equivalent to bur- (probably < *būra, variant of Late Latin burra wool, fluff; cf. bourrée) + -el noun suffix
Related formssub·bu·reau, noun, plural sub·bu·reaus, sub·bu·reaux.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for bureau

Contemporary Examples of bureau

Historical Examples of bureau

  • I am writing this on the bureau, so that when I lift my eyes I may see It.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • And I know that since the death of Maman Theresa they had hid it in one of the bureau drawers.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

  • Beaufort rose with a desperate effort; he moved to the bureau.

    Night and Morning, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

  • They undressed again, and Dan put his gun away in his bureau.

  • Well, they tells me—Lawd knows what they calls it bureau for!

British Dictionary definitions for bureau


noun plural -reaus or -reaux (-rəʊz)

mainly British a writing desk with pigeonholes, drawers, etc, against which the writing surface can be closed when not in use
US a chest of drawers
an office or agency, esp one providing services for the public
  1. a government department
  2. a branch of a government department

Word Origin for bureau

C17: from French: desk, office, originally: type of cloth used for covering desks and tables, from Old French burel, from Late Latin burra shaggy cloth
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for bureau

1690s, "desk with drawers, writing desk," from French bureau "office; desk, writing table," originally "cloth covering for a desk," from burel "coarse woolen cloth" (as a cover for writing desks), Old French diminutive of bure "dark brown cloth," which is perhaps either from Latin burrus "red," or from Late Latin burra "wool, shaggy garment." Offices being full of such desks, the meaning expanded 1720 to "division of a government." Meaning "chest of drawers" is from 1770, said to be American English but early in British use.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper