Say you have a large 20,000+ company with many different sections, or areas. Say for example Apple would have a section for iOS development, one for Mac, one for HR, one for support, etc.

What is the better word to call these different sections: organizations or departments? I'm thinking "Organization" should only refer to the topmost level, the entire company.

  • This question really doesn't have an answer. Each company has its own names for these sections, and the names vary. Different companies might call the top-level sections divisions, centers, departments, organizations, units, or who-knows-what. In at least some companies, a department is a much smaller piece, and the top-level ones have a different name. Jul 18, 2011 at 1:34

3 Answers 3


In the context of Apple, I would agree that departments is the better word. HR is a department, as is Support.

Generally speaking, an entity can comprise several organizations, but in that case I would call that entity itself an organization (or, in case the entity is commercial, corporation). As a simple example, the UN is an organization, but so are its agencies such as the UNTSO and the WHO.

Looking at the Merriam-Webster definitions, I see that organization is an "association, society", while department is "a major division of a business". HR, Support, and iOS Development are certainly major divisions of Apple, but they can't be labeled as societies or associations in their own right.


A company usually has departments; a large company may have divisions (which in turn have departments within them).

I think "department" and "division" have a stronger connotation of hierarchy than "organization" does. Organizations can be looser associations, while the engineering department has a definite reporting chain (to the CTO or whomever).


I think rather than using organization or department, IMHO the right term is functional groups.

  • 1
    That isn't quite an accepted/used term, is it?
    – Daniel
    Jul 18, 2011 at 13:09

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