Office – definition and meaning

An office is a room, several rooms, or a building where people do non-manual work. The term ‘office’ may also refer to a public position of authority or service. For example “She assumed the office of Prime Minister last week.”

Companies may have just one office, or one main office and several branch offices. We often refer to the main one as its headquarters. We also refer to it as the head office.

Offices are where people do professional, commercial, or bureaucratic work. Bureaucratic work refers to civil service or government departmental work.

In North America, people use the term for the consulting room of a professional service. For example, patients see their doctors at their offices. In British English, however, people see their doctors at their surgery.

In many countries, people use the term for a particular government agency or department. For example, in the UK, people say the ‘Foreign Office‘ instead of the Ministry of the Exterior or the Department of State.

We also use the term when somebody does a service for somebody else. For example: “John was rescued through the good offices of the Japanese Ambassador, and is now safely back home.”

Office work spaces

We use office work spaces for writing, reading, telephoning, conferencing, and computer work. In fact, there are several generic types of work space. Below is a description of nine of them.

Private office

This is where just one person works. It is suitable for confidential work. It is also ideal for activities that demand a lot of concentration.

Shared office

This is an enclosed work space where two or three people work. It is suitable for collaborative work in small groups and a medium level of concentration.

Open office

This is an open work space where at least ten people work. This type of work space is ideal for activities that demand relatively little concentration. Open plan work spaces are also suitable for activities that require routine activities and frequent communication.

Team room

This is a room where four to ten people work. It is ideal for confidential teamwork. Team rooms are also useful if the work requires a lot of internal communication.

Team space

This is a semi-enclosed area where two to eight employees work. It is ideal for teamwork. In other words, work that demands a medium level of concentration and frequent internal communication.


Just one person works in a cubicle. It is a semi-enclosed area that is suitable for medium concentration. Cubicles are also suitable for work that demands medium interaction.

Study booth

This is an enclosed space where one person works. It is ideal for short-term work which requires confidentiality. Study booths are also good if the work requires a lot of concentration.

Work lounge

This is a room that looks like a lounge where two to six people work. It is suitable for work in an informal setting that requires collaboration and spontaneous interaction.

Small meeting room

This is a room for up to four people. People use it for either informal or formal meetings.

Large meeting room

This is a large room where up to twelve people can meet. Meetings in this kind of room are formal.

Small meeting space

This is either a semi-open or completely open space where two to four people meet. People use it for informal meetings.

Large meeting space

Up to twelve people can meet in a large meeting space. People use it for short, informal meetings.

Meeting point

People use a meeting point for ad hoc, informal meetings. It can typically accommodate up to four people.

According to Collins Dictionary:

“An office is a room or a part of a building where people work sitting at desks.”

The term ‘office’ can also refer to people. If I say “We had a happy office until John came,” I mean the employees were happy.

Compound words using ‘Office’

There are dozens of compound words/phrases with the term Office. Here are twenty of them:

  • Office Manager

    The person responsible for the overall administrative activities of an office.

  • Office Supplies

    Various consumables and equipment regularly used in offices by businesses and other organizations.

  • Office Hours

    Designated times during which business is conducted or when a service is available to the public.

  • Office Clerk

    An employee who performs clerical work in an office setting.

  • Post Office

    A public department that provides mail services and handles parcels and letters. The term also refers to a company that delivers the post; in many countries it is state-owned.

  • Office Park

    An area of land in which many office buildings are grouped together.

  • Home Office

    A space designated in a person’s residence for official business purposes. In the UK, The Home Office is a government department in charge of the police, law and order, and other domestic affairs (in the US, Department of Homeland Security).

  • Office Furniture

    Furniture intended for use in an office, including desks, chairs, and cabinets.

  • Office Building

    A structure designed to house corporate and administrative functions.

  • Office Automation

    The use of computer systems to conduct a variety of office operations, such as word processing and email.

  • Front Office

    The part of a company that comes in contact with clients, such as the marketing or sales departments.

  • Back Office

    Portion of a company made up of administration and support personnel who are not client-facing.

  • Office Memo

    A written message used in business to communicate information internally.

  • Box Office

    The office where tickets of admission are sold at a theater, cinema, or other entertainment venue.

  • Office Party

    A social event held for employees to celebrate or for team-building purposes.

  • Office Politics

    The strategies used by individuals within a workplace to gain advantage personally or for a certain cause or agenda.

  • Office Space

    The rooms and other areas in a building that are used or suitable for office work.

  • Field Office

    A branch of a company or government agency that functions away from the central office, often in a different location.

  • Office Assistant

    An employee who supports the administrative work of the office, performing tasks such as filing and scheduling appointments.

  • Office Dress Code

    A set of rules governing what garments may be worn by individuals in an office.

Office in other languages

Here is the word ‘Office’ translated into various languages:

  • 办公室 (Bàngōngshì) (Mandarin Chinese)
  • 辦公室 (Baan1 gung1 sat1) (Cantonese Chinese)
  • कार्यालय (Kāryālaya) (Hindi)
  • Oficina (Spanish)
  • Bureau (French)
  • مكتب (Maktab) (Arabic)
  • অফিস (Ôphis) (Bengali)
  • Офис (Ofis) (Russian)
  • Escritório (Portuguese)
  • دفتر (Daftar) (Urdu)
  • Kantor (Indonesian)
  • Büro (German)
  • オフィス (Ofisu) (Japanese)
  • कार्यालय (Kāryālay) (Marathi)
  • ఆఫీసు (Āfīsu) (Telugu)
  • Ofis (Turkish)
  • அலுவலகம் (Aluvalagam) (Tamil)
  • Văn phòng (Vietnamese)
  • Opisina (Tagalog)
  • 사무실 (Samusil) (Korean)

Video – What is an Office?

This video, from Marketing Business Network, our sister channel in YouTube, explains what ‘Office’ means using simple language and examples.