office
Pronunciation
  • (RP) IPA: /ˈɒfɪs/
  • (America) IPA: /ˈɔfɪs/
  • (cot-caught, Canada) IPA: /ˈɑfɪs/
Noun

office (plural offices)

  1. (religion) A ceremonial duty or service, particularly:
    1. (Christianity) The authorized form of ceremonial worship of a church.
    2. (Christianity, obsolete) Mass, (particularly) the introit sung at its beginning.
      • 1549, "Svpper of the Lorde" in The Book of Common Prayer, page 121:
        The office, or Introite, (as they call it).
    3. (Christianity) Any special liturgy, as the Office for the Dead or of the Virgin.
    4. (Christianity) A daily service without the eucharist.
    5. (Catholicism) The daily service of the breviary, the liturgy for each canonical hour, including psalms, collects, and lessons.
      In the Latin rite, all bishops, priests, and transitional deacons are obliged to recite the Divine Office daily.
      • 1674, Richard Strange, The Life and Gests of S. Thomas Cantilupe, Bishop of Hereford, page 287:
        His spirituall exercises were chiefly Prayer, the H. Sacrifice of Masse, his Canonicall Houres or diuine Office.
    6. (Protestant) Various prayers used with modification as a morning or evening service.
    7. (Christianity) Last rites.
      • 1582, Bible (Rheims), John, 12 (marginalia):
        The deuout offices of balming and anointing the dead bodies.
      • 1618, S. Rowlands, Sacred Memorie, 37:
        To show their loue in this last office done
        To a dead friend.
      • 1822, Walter Scott, The Fortunes of Nigel, Vol. III, Ch. xi, page 318:
        I... will be first to render thee the decent offices due to the dead.
  2. A position of responsibility.
    When the office of Secretary of State is vacant, its duties fall upon an official within the department.
    • 1611, Bible (KJV), Epistle to the Romans, 11:13 ↗:
      ...in as much as I am the Apostle of the Gentiles, I magnifie mine office...
    • 1787, United States Constitution, Article II, §1:
      I do solemnly swear... that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."
  3. Official position, particularly high employment within government; tenure in such a position.
    She held office as secretary of state until she left office to run for office.
    • c. 1605, William Shakespeare & al., The Life of Tymon of Athens, Act I, Scene ii, ll. 207 f. ↗:
      Fla.... Well, would I were
      Gently put out of Office, before I were forc'd out...
    • 1923, Rose Macaulay, Told by an Idiot, Act III, Scene xv, l. 227:
      The Tories had been in office ten years.
  4. (obsolete) An official or group of officials; (figuratively) a personification of officeholders.
    • a. 1602, William Shakespeare, The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke, Act III, Scene i, ll. 1724 ff. ↗:
      ...For who would beare...
      The pangs of despiz'd loue, the lawes delay,
      The insolence of office...
      When he himselfe might his quietas make...
      With a bare bodkin?
    • a. 1625, John Fletcher & al., A Very Woman, Act III, Scene ii, ll. 36 ff.:
      Ped. Now Mr. Office:
      What is the Reason that your vigilant Greatness
      And your Wife's wonderful wiseness have lock'd up from me
      The way to see my Mistress? Who's Dog's dead now,
      That you observe these Vigils?
  5. A duty, particularly owing to one's position or station; a charge, trust, or role; (obsolete, rare) moral duty.
    • c. 1603, William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Act II, Scene ii, ll. 749 ff. ↗:
      Ang.... Doe you your office, or giue vp your Place,
      And you shall well be spar'd.
    • 1667, John Milton, Paradise Lost, Bk. ix:
      The sun was sunk, and after him the star
      Hesperus, whose office is to bring
      Twilight upon the earth...
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, chapter I, in The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. In Six Volumes, volume (please specify ), London: Printed by A[ndrew] Millar, […], OCLC 928184292 ↗, book IV:
    • 1811, Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility, Vol. I, Ch. viii, page 87:
      A woman... might bring herself to submit to the offices of a nurse, for the sake of the provision and security of a wife.
    • 1813, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, page 144:
      […] there I readily engaged in the office of pointing out to my friend the certain evils of such a choice.
  6. (obsolete) The performance of a duty; an instance of performing a duty.
    • 1535, Bible (Coverdale), 1 Kings, 10:5:
      Whan the Quene of riche Arabia sawe all the wyszdome of Salomon... & the offyces of his ministers, and their garmentes... she wondred exceadingly.
    • 1693, John Dryden translating Juvenal as The Satires of Decimus Junius Juvenalis, Ch. iii, page 41:
      At Rome (nor think me partial to the Poor)
      All Offices of ours are out of Door.
  7. (archaic) Function: anything typically done by or expected of something.
    • 1704, Isaac Newton, Opticks:
      In this experiment the several intervals of the teeth of the comb do the office of so many prisms.
    • 1813, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Vol. I, Ch. viii, page 76:
      I hope you saw her petticoat, six inches deep in mud,... and the gown which had been let down to hide it, not doing its office.
    • 1971, John Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, Ch. iii, page 590:
      These ‘Pacific boom-lateens’... are believed to derive from a kind of sprit-sail... in which the upper sprit performs the office of a more or less aft-raking mast.
  8. (obsolete) A bodily function, (particularly) urination and defecation; an act of urination or defecation.
    • c. 1603, William Shakespeare, The Tragoedy of Othello, The Moore of Venice, Act III, Scene iv, ll. 2265 ff. ↗:
      Cassio.... Whom I, with all the Office of my heart
      Intirely honour...
    • 1613, Samuel Purchas, Purchas, His Pilgrimage, page 623:
      Washing themselves, as they doe also after the offices of Nature.
    • 1764 August 5, David Garrick, letter:
      I never, since I left England, till now, have regal'd Myself with a good house of Office... the holes in Germany are... too round, chiefly owing... to the broader bottoms of the Germans.
    • 1823, Lord Byron, Don Juan, Canto XI, §xl, ll. 123 f.:
      The very clerks—those somewhat dirty springs
      Of office, or the House of Office.
  9. (now usually in plural) A service, a kindness.
    The secretary prevailed at the negotiations through the good offices of the Freedonian ambassador.
    • 1575, Elizabeth I, letter:
      ...which we have hitherto forborne to graunt... for the evell offices whiche her other Secretary did there.
    • c. 1595,, William Shakespeare, The Life and Death of King Richard the Second, Act II, Scene ii, ll. 1089 ff.:
      Bush. Thither will I with you, for little office
      Will the hatefull commons perfourme for vs,
      Except like curs to teare vs all to pieces...
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, Book I, Ch. xiii ↗:
      One of the maxims which the devil, in a late visit upon earth, left to his disciples, is, when once you are got up, to kick the stool from under you. In plain English, when you have made your fortune by the good offices of a friend, you are advised to discard him as soon as you can.
    • 1811, Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility, Vol. III, Ch. xiii, page 263:
      I... am sure you will be too generous to do us any ill offices.
    • 1830, Joseph Smith, Doctrine and Covenants 25:5 ↗:
      And the office of thy calling shall be for a comfort unto my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., thy husband, in his afflictions, with consoling words, in the spirit of meekness.
    • 1915, William Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage, Ch. lxx, page 359:
      He got her slippers and took off her boots. It delighted him to perform menial offices.
  10. (figuratively, slang) Inside information.
    • 1803, Sporting Magazine, No. 21, page 327:
      Giving the office—is when you suffer any person, who may stand behind your chair, to look over your hand.
  11. A room, set of rooms, or building used for non-manual work, particularly:
    The office of the Secretary of State is cleaned when it is vacant.
    • 1611, Bible (KJV), 2 Chron., 24:11 ↗:
      Now it came to passe that at what time the chest was brought vnto the kings office, by the hand of the Leuites...
    • 1885, The Law Times Reports, No. 53, page 459:
      Griffith, having taken offices a few doors off, also carried on the business of a solicitor.
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, The Celebrity, Ch. 2:
      We drove back to the office with some concern on my part at the prospect of so large a case.
    • 1945, H.L. Mencken, The American Language, Supplement Vol. I, page 503:
      An English lawyer, whether barrister or solicitor, never has an office, but always chambers.
    • 2013 August 3, "Revenge of the Nerds ↗" in The Economist, No. 408:
      Think of banking today and the image is of grey-suited men in towering skyscrapers. Its future, however, is being shaped in converted warehouses and funky offices in San Francisco, New York, and London, where bright young things in jeans and T-shirts huddle around laptops, sipping lattes or munching on free food.
    1. A room, set of rooms, or building used for administration and bookkeeping.
      • 1849, William Thackeray, Pendennis, Vol. I, Ch. xxxvi, page 347:
        The ‘Pall Mall Gazette’ had its offices... in Catherine Street.
    2. A room, set of rooms, or building used for selling services or tickets to the public.
      • 1819 September 22, John Keats, letter to Reynolds:
        There will be some of the family waiting for you at the coach-office.
    3. (chiefly, US, medical) A room, set of rooms, or building used for consultation and diagnosis, but not surgery or other major procedures.
      • 1975, M. Duke, Death of Holy Murderer, Ch. viii, page 108:
        This one was made out at a private office—Office is American for Surgery.
  12. (figuratively) The staff of such places.
    The whole office was there... well, except you, of course.
  13. (figuratively, in large organizations) The administrative departments housed in such places, particularly:
    He's from our public relations office.
    1. (UK, AU, usually capitalized, with clarifying modifier) A ministry or other department of government.
      The secretary of state's British colleague heads the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
    2. (Catholicism, usually capitalized) Short for Holy Office: the court of final appeal in cases of heresy.
      • 1642, J. Howell, Forraine Travell, Ch. x, page 131:
        A Biscayner is capable to be a Cavalier of any of the three habits without any scrutiny to be made of the Office, whether he be, limpio de la sangre de los Moros, that is cleare of the bloud of the Moores or no.
      • 1658, Pilgrim's Book, page 3:
        They abiured their Heresy bublikly [sic] before the Commissary of the holy office.
    3. A particular place of business of a larger white-collar business.
      He worked as the receptionist at the Akron office.
      • 1647, W. Bridge, Saints Hiding-place, page 17:
        But there is an Insuring-Office set up in the Gospel, as to the venture of our eternities.
      • 1732, Benjamin Franklin, "Proposals & Queries to be Asked the Junto":
        Would not an Office of Insurance for Servants be of Service, and what Methods are proper for the erecting such an Office?
      • 1816, Jane Austen, Emma, Vol. II, Ch. xvii, page 324:
        There are advertising offices, and... by applying to them I should have no doubt of very soon meeting with something that would do.
      • 1861, Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, Vol. II, Ch. xii, page 204:
        A large Danish sun or star hanging round his neck by a blue ribbon... had given him the appearance of being insured in some extraordinary Fire Office.
  14. (now in the plural, dated) The parts of a house or estate devoted to manual work and storage, as the kitchen, scullery, laundry, stables, etc., particularly (euphemism, dated) a house or estate's facilities for urination and defecation: outhouses or lavatories.
    • 1720, William Willymott translating Francis Bacon as "Of Building" in Lord Bacons Essays, Vol. I ↗, page 283 ↗:
      As for the smallcaps Offices, let them stand at some Distance from the House, with some low covered Galleries, to pass from them to the Palace it self.
    • 1727, "The Grand Mystery":
      ... proposals for erecting 500 Publick Offices of Ease in London and Westminster...
    • 1887, Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet, Ch. iii:
      A short passage, bare planked and dusty, led to the kitchen and offices.
    • 1957, Emyr Estyn Evans, Irish Folk Ways, Ch. viii, page 112:
      Only in planted areas does one find old examples of planned ‘courtyard farms’ where the house and offices enclose a square or rectangular yard.
    • 1957, John Braine, Room at Top, Ch. i, page 13:
      The bathroom's to the right and the usual offices next to it.
    • 1980, William Golding, Rites of Passage, Ch. i, page 6:
      Aft of the lobby... is the dining saloon for the passengers with the offices of necessity on either side of it.
  15. (UK law, historical) Clipping of inquest of office: an inquest undertaken on occasions when the Crown claimed the right of possession to land or property.
    • 1768, William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, Vol. III, page 259:
      If they find the treason or felony... of the party accused... the king is thereupon, by virtue of this office found, intitled to have his forfeitures.
    • 1977, John McDonald Burke, Jowitt's Dictionary of English Law, Vol. I, page 280:
      If the Crown claimed the land of an idiot, the person had first to be found an idiot by office.
  16. (obsolete) A piece of land used for hunting; the area of land overseen by a gamekeeper.
  17. (figuratively, slang, obsolete) A hangout: a place where one is normally found.
    • 1699, A New Dictionary of the Terms Ancient and Modern of the Canting Crew:
      His Office, any Man's ordinary Haunt, or Plying-place, be it Tavern, Ale-house, Gaming-house.
  18. (UK military slang, dated) A plane's cockpit, particularly an observer's cockpit.
    • 1917, Alan Bott, An Airman's Outings, page 161:
      I withdraw into ‘the office’, otherwise the observer's cockpit.
    • 1941 March 24, Life, page 85:
      In the slang of the Royal Air Force man, the cockpit of his plane is the ‘pulpit’ or ‘office’, the glass covering over it the ‘greenhouse’.
    • 1966 May 13, New Statesman, page 687
      ‘Up in the office they too knew it.’ ‘The office? You mean the flight deck?’ ‘Just that. No more. No less. The office.’
  19. (computing) A collection of business software typically including a word processor and spreadsheet and slideshow programs.
Synonyms Related terms Translations Translations
  • German: Amt
  • Russian: до́лжность
Translations Translations Verb

office (offices, present participle officing; past and past participle officed)

  1. To provide (someone) with an office.
    • Is he officed in Congressional Relations or is he officed in SCA?
      Prior to that time, Station personnel were first officed in temporary wartime barracks on the campus and then on the second floor of the Journalism Building.
  2. (intransitive) To have an office.



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