[ kab-uh-nit ]
/ ˈkæb ə nɪt /
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4 ministry, advisers, counselors.
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Origin of cabinet

First recorded in 1540–50; from Middle French, equivalent to cabine “hut, room on a ship” (of uncertain origin, but frequently alleged to be alteration of cabane cabin) + -et -et


su·per·cab·i·net, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is the Cabinet?

The Cabinet is the group of advisors to the president of the United States. The Cabinet is made of 25 members, many of whom would be in line to be president if the president was suddenly unable to do their job, called the line of succession.

As the head of the United States government and the leader of the executive branch, the president has many responsibilities and powers. Because the work is too much for one person, the president has always had a small group of advisors to guide them and lead the executive departments. This group is known as the Cabinet.

The members of the Cabinet all have very different roles and responsibilities. Many of them are in charge of essential departments that keep the daily operations of the United States going, such as the Department of the Treasury, which collects revenue.

Every member of the Cabinet must be confirmed by majority vote in the Senate, which is part of the checks and balances of the US government. In addition to the vice president and the president’s chief of staff, the Cabinet includes the heads of the 15 executive departments, the presidential science advisor, and several other federal administrators.

Why is Cabinet important?

The term Cabinet is never mentioned in the Constitution of the United States. Although the first records of the term to refer to the US president’s advisors are uncertain, James Madison was the first president to use it to refer to his advisors. However, the Constitution does state that the president may require the advice of the “principal Officer in each of the executive Departments.” The Constitution states that these people must be confirmed by the Senate.

Every US president has had a Cabinet, all the way back to George Washington. During Washington’s time, there were only four executive departments, and Washington did not include Vice President John Adams in his Cabinet. Because he wanted a wide range of opinions, Washington’s Cabinet included men with conflicting political ideas. Notably, his first Cabinet included bitter enemies Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.

In the hundreds of years since the first Cabinet, the number of members in the Cabinet has changed with the addition or removal of executive departments, as well as certain executive positions being elevated to “Cabinet-level” importance.

Did you know … ?

President James Monroe is the only person in American history to hold two Cabinet positions simultaneously. Monroe was named Secretary of State in 1811 during the presidency of James Madison but also temporarily held the position of Secretary of War during the War of 1814 because of his extensive military knowledge.

What are real-life examples of Cabinet?

This photo shows President Barack Obama meeting with members of his Cabinet in 2015.


Despite their importance, the members of the Cabinet may not be as familiar to Americans as the president and vice president are.

Quiz yourself!

True or False?

The US Constitution allows the president to have a Cabinet of advisors, as long as the Senate approves the advisors.

How to use cabinet in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for cabinet

/ (ˈkæbɪnɪt) /


Word Origin for cabinet

C16: from Old French, diminutive of cabine, of uncertain origin
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

Cultural definitions for cabinet (1 of 2)


A select group of officials who advise the head of government. In nations governed by parliaments, such as Britain, the members of the cabinet typically have seats in parliament. (Compare cabinet under “American Politics.”)

Cultural definitions for cabinet (2 of 2)


A group of presidential advisers, composed of the heads of the fourteen government departments (the secretaries of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of the Interior, Department of Labor, Department of State, Department of Transportation, Department of the Treasury, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the attorney general (head of the Department of Justice) — all of whom are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate) and a few other select government officials. Theoretically, the cabinet is charged with debating major policy issues and recommending action by the executive branch; the actual influence of the cabinet, however, is limited by competition from other advisory staffs.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.