Definition of bureau in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈbyo͝orō/

noun (plural bureaus or bureaux /ˈbyo͝orōz/)

1North American A chest of drawers.
Example sentences
  • The rest of the furniture - the bureau, the night tables and the chairs - were all the same style.
  • It was of average size with an unmade bed sitting in one corner, a night table, two dressers, a bureau, a desk, a small TV, and a lot of posters on the wall.
  • The next morning, the soldiers gave him a room with a bed, a bureau, a desk and a window that looked out on a forest.
dresser, chest of drawers, cabinet, tallboy, highboy
1.1British A writing desk with drawers and typically an angled top opening downward to form a writing surface.
Example sentences
  • They later found that the writing bureau had been broken into but nothing has been stolen.
  • These should be of the same construction and of the same timber as the small drawers in the fitted part of the bureau or in the secretaire drawer.
  • There was nowhere it might be stored - the bureau drawers were too small.
2 (abbreviation bur.) An office or department for transacting particular business: a news bureau the London bureau of the Washington Post
More example sentences
  • Freelancers and big news agencies with international bureaux are on the ground, shooting film and talking to people, letting us see and hear first-hand about very individual stories.
  • It says a great deal about the role of the media and the outlook that pervades editorial offices and network news bureaus.
  • News organisations now rely on a shrinking number of sources in Iraq, including the news syndicates and wire services that have local bureaux operating there all the time.
2.1A government department: the intelligence bureau
More example sentences
  • On the same day that Tenet resigned, the FBI proposed creation of a separate intelligence division inside the bureau.
  • If workers reckon that they might have been affected by occupational diseases, they should go to occupational disease hospitals or departments, and can further apply to local public health bureaus for authentication.
  • The president is setting up a department to oversee all intelligence and security bureaux.


Late 17th century: from French, originally 'baize' (used to cover writing desks), from Old French burel, probably from bure 'dark brown'.

  • The French word bureau originally meant ‘baize’, a material that was used for covering writing desks, and probably comes from a form of buire ‘dark brown’. In the early 18th century bureau entered English both as a writing desk and as an office, a place where writing desks are found. In North America the piece of furniture called a bureau is a chest of drawers rather than a desk. The word is common there in the official titles of some government offices, for example the Federal Bureau of Investigation or FBI.

Words that rhyme with bureau

chiaroscuro, Douro, enduro, euro, Ishiguro, Oruro, Truro

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: bu·reau

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.