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From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Bureau \Bu"reau\, n.; pl. E. Bureaus, F. Bureaux. [F. bureau a writing table, desk, office, OF., drugget, with which a writing table was often covered, equiv. to F. bure, and fr. OF. buire dark brown, the stuff being named from its color, fr. L. burrus red, fr. Gr. ? flame-colored, prob. fr. ? fire. See Fire, n., and cf. Borel, n.] 1. Originally, a desk or writing table with drawers for papers. --Swift. [1913 Webster] 2. The place where such a bureau is used; an office where business requiring writing is transacted. [1913 Webster] 3. Hence: A department of public business requiring a force of clerks; the body of officials in a department who labor under the direction of a chief. [1913 Webster] Note: On the continent of Europe, the highest departments, in most countries, have the name of bureaux; as, the Bureau of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. In England and America, the term is confined to inferior and subordinate departments; as, the "Pension Bureau," a subdepartment of the Department of the Interior. [Obs.] In Spanish, bureo denotes a court of justice for the trial of persons belonging to the king's household. [1913 Webster] 4. A chest of drawers for clothes, especially when made as an ornamental piece of furniture. [U.S.] [1913 Webster] Bureau system. See Bureaucracy. Bureau Veritas, an institution, in the interest of maritime underwriters, for the survey and rating of vessels all over the world. It was founded in Belgium in 1828, removed to Paris in 1830, and re["e]stablished in Brussels in 1870. [1913 Webster]