In Canada, five of the ten provincial governments use the term "ministry" to describe their departments (Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Alberta) but the other five, as well as the federal government, use the term "department". Despite the difference in nomenclature, both the provincial and federal governments use the term "minister" to describe the head of a ministry or department. The specific task assigned to a minister is referred to as his or her "portfolio".
In the United Kingdom, all government organisations that consist of civil servants, and which may or may not be headed by a government minister or secretary of state, are considered to be departments. Until 2018, the term "ministry" had been retained only for the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Justice. On 8 January 2018, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the Department of Communities and Local Government would be renamed at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to emphasise her government's prioritising of housing policy.
Some countries, such as Australia, the United Kingdom Switzerland, the Philippines and the United States, do not use the term "ministry" and instead call their main government bodies "departments".
New Zealand's state agencies include a large number of ministries and a smaller number of departments. Increasingly, state agencies are styled neither as ministries nor as departments. All New Zealand agencies are under the direction of one or more ministers or associate ministers, whether they are styled "ministries" or not. Each body also has an apolitical chief executive, and in ministries and departments these chief executives often have the title of Secretary.
However, in other countries such as Luxembourg a department is a subdivision of a ministry, usually led by a government member called a secretary of state who is subordinate to the minister.
In Hong Kong, the term "bureau" is used, and departments are subordinate to the bureaus, while in Mexico, ministries are referred to as secretariats.
In Nigeria each ministry is led by a minister who is not a member of the Nigerian legislature (due to the separation of powers) and is responsible to the popularly elected President.
In Lebanon, there are 21 ministries. Each ministry is led by a minister, and the Prime Minister is the 22nd minister of the Lebanese government.
In the European Union, departments are termed Directorate(s)-General with the civil servant in charge called a Director-General (in the European Commission, the political head of the department is one of the European Commissioners).
The government departments of the Soviet Union were named "People's Commissariats" between 1917 and 1946.