In English language, the government structure of all countries is referred to with the terms of minister and ministry.

However, in English-speaking countries, Secretary and Department are used instead.

UK/US Secretary of State at UK/US Department of State.

Despite this terminology, the head of secretaries in the UK is still called Prime Minister (not Prime Secretary).

Why in English speaking countries, the terms ministry and minister are avoided for the government structure?

  • 2
    I was surprised to learn that the UK Govt. is just down to the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Justice; the rest of them have been renamed Department, as you point out. Only other note is that many US governmental departments are named Bureau or Agency and typically have a Director. All that to say is that I don't think there's an intelligible pattern at work, just legislators going with what sounds fashionable. After all, nothing can get done in business or government without a cool name.
    – Patrick M
    May 3, 2015 at 18:05
  • 4
    Minister/Ministry has always been avoided in the US because when our country was established minister still had the overtone of being an appointment of the monarch personally. May 3, 2015 at 18:13
  • 4
    @Patrick: It is still the Ministry of Silly Walks!
    – David Pugh
    May 3, 2015 at 18:41
  • I have no idea why the British moved away from "minister/ministry", but StoneyB explains it well for the US.
    – Hot Licks
    May 3, 2015 at 19:14
  • 1
    @PatrickM US governmental departments (i.e. cabinet-level organizations) are all called "Department," and all of them except Justice are led by a "Secretary" (Justice is led by the Attorney General). Bureaus and Agencies are either below a Department in the org chart, or are outside the whole departmental structure; their heads are not cabinet officials and aren't called "minister" or "secretary."
    – cpast
    May 3, 2015 at 19:56

1 Answer 1


The system of nomenclature is unique from government to government, and the terminology of the United States government was established with the expressed purpose of differentiating from the monarchial system in England when Independence was gained. In the United States the Federal Government is divided into three branches:

1. Legislative Branch

The United States Congress is the legislative branch of the federal government. It is bicameral, comprising the House of Representatives and the Senate.



noun (plural congressmen)

A member of Congress, especially a member of the US House of Representatives:


noun (plural congresswomen)

A female member of Congress, especially a female member of the US House of Representatives:


  • A member of the Senate is called senator:


1 A member of a senate, in particular a member of the US Senate:


2. Executive Branch

The executive power in the federal government is vested in the President of the United States, although power is often delegated to the Cabinet members and other officials.


  • The Chief Executive Officer is called president:


1 The elected head of a republican state:



An official or executive ranking below and deputizing for a president:


1.3 An official in charge of a US government department.

  • Each federal executive department is organized with Bureaus, Agencies and Administrations, as well as numerous other smaller subsections of executive responsibility.
  • The leaders of these subsections are predominantly called director:


1 A person who is in charge of an activity, department, or organization:


3. Judicial Branch

The Judiciary explains and applies the laws. This branch does this by hearing and eventually making decisions on various legal cases.


  • Each member of the judiciary is called justice:

2 A judge or magistrate, in particular a judge of the Supreme Court of a country or state.


  • The presiding member of the Supreme Court is called the Chief Justice:

1.1 (Chief Justice of the United States) (The formal title of) the chief justice of the US Supreme Court.


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