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1690s, "desk with drawers, writing desk," from French bureau "office; desk, writing table," originally "cloth covering for a desk," from burel "coarse woolen cloth" (as a cover for writing desks), Old French diminutive of bure "dark brown cloth," which is perhaps either from Latin burrus "red," or from Late Latin burra "wool, shaggy garment." Offices being full of such desks, the meaning expanded 1720 to "division of a government." Meaning "chest of drawers" is from 1770, said to be American English but early in British use.
in the United States, a chest of drawers; in Europe a writing desk, usually with a hinged writing flap that rests at a sloping angle when closed and, when opened, reveals a tier of pigeonholes, small drawers, and sometimes a small cupboard. The bureau (French: "office") first appeared in France at the beginning of the 17th century as just a flat table with drawers below the top, the bureau plat. By Louis XIV's reign, a kneehole type was in use, with a tier of drawers on each side and a single drawer in the centre above a space for the knees.