5

So apparently most of the U.S. government departments have been using Department of ..., like Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security. But it looks like there's a weird exception, Department of Education (ED).

As we see it also use the pattern of Department of ... but its abbreviation is meaning Education Department. Why is it different from others? Why isn't ED abbreviated as DOE?

Quote from Wikipedia: United States Department of Education:

The United States Department of Education (ED or DoED), also referred to as the ED for (the) Education Department, is a Cabinet-level department of the United States government.

  • 2
    Note that the Wikipedia blurb is wrong; it should read "DoEd", which is correctly given further down. – Xerxes Feb 10 at 16:13
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    There are other cabinet departments that aren't abbreviated "department of" either: USDA, HHS, USDT (Treasury and Transportation can't both use DOT), HUD, VA. – Zach Lipton Feb 10 at 21:04
  • @ZachLipton While Treasury isn't DOT, I don't think I've ever seen them called USDT. The US Government Manual lists TREAS as the acronym, which is also what I've generally seen. – cpast Feb 10 at 22:48
  • @cpast Good point. Wikipedia is claiming it's USDT, and there are some uses of that, but really very few. I think it's also more common to just refer to a specific part of the agency, which usually has their own acronyms. – Zach Lipton Feb 10 at 23:14
  • "DOT" is also widely used among state and local governments for "Department of Transportation," so using it at the federal level for any other department would be confusing, as would using a different abbreviation for the federal Department of Transportation. – phoog Feb 11 at 19:15
23

It's likely because there are two departments starting with E, the other being the Department of Energy.

When the Department of Education was formed in 1979, the Department of Energy already existed. So the abbreviation DoE was already established for the Department of Energy. To avoid ambiguity, a different abbreviation has to be used for the Department of Education.

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    Also, "ED" is a common abbreviation for "Education." – John Dallman Feb 10 at 12:11
  • 2
    And DED was probably a bad choice too :-) – Wes Sayeed Feb 11 at 2:32
5

Officially, every cabinet-level department is known as Department of _______, as shown on their official seals:

Seals of the United States

Informally, the names, abbreviations, and word order are arbitrary. For example, the Department of Justice is the DoJ, but is often called the Justice Department. Homeland Security is DHS, and Health and Human Services is HHS.

The Treasury Department and the State Department don't have abbreviations. They're just called "Treasury" and "State" respectively, since DoT is the Transportation Department, and State is short enough on its own.

The names are really just chosen to avoid ambiguity and aren't considered "official" in the legal sense.

  • You might also want to note that the "Treasury of the United States" is distinct from (but contained in) the Department of the Treasury (31 USC 302). So "Treasury" without an article would normally refer to the department, but "the Treasury" would refer to (the perhaps more abstract concept of) the Treasury of the United States, the existence of which is assumed by the constitution of the US. – phoog Feb 11 at 19:23
  • Note that the logo of the now disbanded Post Office Department wrote it that way, rather than "Department of the Post Office". – K.A Feb 13 at 5:19

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