In some countries of Latinoamerica the political divisions of territory are called "Departamento". Is it correct to translate it as Department? I think it could sound odd.

For example, "Departamento de Lima" should be translated as Lima Department, Lima Departamento or Departamento Lima?

  • Ok, but in fact "Region" doesn't apply in Peru (not for discussing here). So, I would like to know what should be the best option for "Departamento".
    – Irbin B.
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 21:15
  • Maybe not when Peruvians discuss their country in Spanish. But as far as I can tell the usual practice of English speakers is to call the departamentos "Regions".
    – The Photon
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 21:16
  • It all depends on where you are using it. The Spanish page on Peru says the departamentos are regiones, except for one. So, region is OK. But bear in mind, there are departments in France, and in English, those are called departments. Therefore, there is an English usage where department means an administrative district in terms of geography.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 21:20
  • Ok, I got it, that's quite reasonable.
    – Irbin B.
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 21:23
  • @Lambie, never mind the US usage of the word state.
    – The Photon
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 21:29

4 Answers 4


The usual English translation seems to be Region.

For example, Wikipedia has an article on the Lima Region, within which are 10 provinces.

And the CIA Factbook says that Peru's administrative divisions are, "25 regions (regiones, singular - region) and 1 province* (provincia); Amazonas, Ancash, Apurimac, Arequipa, Ayacucho, Cajamarca, Callao, Cusco, Huancavelica, Huanuco, Ica, Junin, La Libertad, Lambayeque, Lima, Lima*, Loreto, Madre de Dios, Moquegua, Pasco, Piura, Puno, San Martin, Tacna, Tumbes, Ucayali"

(The CIA seems to have lost track of the exact count, or counted the Lima Province as a region, where Wiki says that it is a province not part of the Lima Region or any other Region)


Further information from the Wikipedia article on the administrative divisions of Peru:

Peru was divided into 24 departments (departamentos; singular: departamento) until the creation of the regions in 2002. These regions are governed by Regional Governments. Many people still use the old departamentos term when referring to the current regions of Peru, although it is now obsolete. The departments were identical to today's regions, with the exception of two new regions (Callao and Lima).

So it appears that the historical departmentos were translated as "departments". But the current division into regiones are called "regions" in English.

If you want to talk about the historical departamento I'd call it either "Lima Department", or "The Department of Lima" in English.

  • Even though this is the response to the question I think the contribution of @JeremyC is quite useful too.
    – Irbin B.
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 21:46
  • I also see (though I can barely read the Spanish) that Spanish-Wikipedia has a completely different story from English WIkipedia about whether Peru is divided into departments or regions.
    – The Photon
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 21:50

In general the technical terms in one country for administrative districts do not translate into those of other countries, even if they speak the same language. US counties are nothing like English counties, for example.

Sometimes there is an official or semi-official translation into English. In Egypt, for example, there are administrative districts commonly translated as 'governorates' even though that is not a word used elsewhere in the English language.

In France there are 'departments' (with an accent over the first e that I cannot reproduce), a term introduced during the French revolution and which may well have influenced revolutionaries in Latin America in the early 19th century.

My suggestion is that first you should research how these terms are usually translated, and, secondly, if there does not appear to be a usual translation, define your own. Personally I would go for the French word.

  • To do an e acute é on a Windows machine, hold down the ALT key, type 130 on the numeric keypad, release the ALT key. or copy the character from the Le Monde website? ééééé. In France you have 102 départements, spelled thus, which form a tier of local government below the 18 régions. Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 21:39
  • I use a Mac, and it wouldn't do an acute accent for me.
    – JeremyC
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 21:47
  • Not even by going to a French website, copying an é from a word and pasting it here? Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 21:50
  • As a translator, I do these all the time. Much depends on getting an overview of all the administrative regions or areas of a country, then, one can make a really informed decision. That said, Portugal has parishes and Japan (like France) has prefectures. Yes, indeed, French département, smaller than une région and comprised of communes, also a pain to translate. In all fairness, a commune can be a district. Mostly, these terms come on birth certificates etc. And no one really seems to care how they are translated as long as its logical. And I never follow the crowd on these.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 23:18

Another alternative would be to refer to these divisions as cantons after giving the Spanish term. It can be used as a generic term for a political or administrative subdivision. The English word department is a "false friend".


The other answers are correct and it would be accurate to translate to the equivalent region, province, state, prefecture, commonwealth, or territory, depending on how authority is divided. In some cases simply area, section, or zone would be appropriate.

However, it is common for English to use whatever most directly matches the word or phrase in the original language. So

The Department of Lima

would not be unusual, although you might have to explain exactly what this means, for example how large of an area it represents, whether it has a local government, etc..

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .