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noun pur·pose \ˈpər-pəs\

Simple Definition of purpose

  • : the reason why something is done or used : the aim or intention of something

  • : the feeling of being determined to do or achieve something

  • : the aim or goal of a person : what a person is trying to do, become, etc.

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of purpose

  1. 1 a :  something set up as an object or end to be attained :  intention b :  resolution, determination

  2. 2 :  a subject under discussion or an action in course of execution

on purpose

  1. :  by intent :  intentionally

Examples of purpose in a sentence

  1. Shocking as it is, more than a month after the hurricane hit, New Orleans is still, for all practical purposes, a ghost town. —Tom Piazza, Why New Orleans Matters, 2005

  2. By the time … American aid began pouring in, to all intents and purposes the war had already been lost. —Neil L. Jamieson, Understanding Vietnam, 1993

  3. But wartime wage and price controls prevented companies from competing for the available talent by means of increased salaries. They had to compete with fringe benefits instead, and free health insurance was tailor-made for this purpose. —John Steele Gordon, American Heritage, May - June 1992

  4. His purpose is to realize himself, to live the fullest possible life, and he is responsible for this, like all men, regardless of how society treats him. —Shelby Steele, Wilson Quarterly, Summer 1990

  5. The purpose of the new resort is to attract more tourists.

  6. The loans are small but they serve a good purpose.

  7. Sometimes his life seemed to lack purpose or meaning.

  8. We started work again with a renewed sense of purpose.

Origin and Etymology of purpose

Middle English purpos, from Anglo-French, from purposer to intend, propose, from Latin proponere (perfect indicative proposui) to propose — more at propound

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of purpose

intention, intent, purpose, design, aim, end, object, objective, goal mean what one intends to accomplish or attain. intention implies little more than what one has in mind to do or bring about <announced his intention to marry>. intent suggests clearer formulation or greater deliberateness <the clear intent of the statute>. purpose suggests a more settled determination <being successful was her purpose in life>. design implies a more carefully calculated plan <the order of events came by accident, not design>. aim adds to these implications of effort directed toward attaining or accomplishing <her aim was to raise film to an art form>. end stresses the intended effect of action often in distinction or contrast to the action or means as such <willing to use any means to achieve his end>. object may equal end but more often applies to a more individually determined wish or need <his constant object was the achievement of pleasure>. objective implies something tangible and immediately attainable <their objective is to seize the oil fields>. goal suggests something attained only by prolonged effort and hardship <worked years to reach her goals>.



verb pur·pose \ˈpər-pəs\

Definition of purpose



  1. transitive verb
  2. :  to propose as an aim to oneself

Examples of purpose in a sentence

  1. I have not purposed to misrepresent this boy in any way, for what little indignation he excited in me soon passed and left nothing behind it but compassion. —Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad, 1880

  2. The child then explained that they had left the races on the first day, and were travelling to the next town on that road, where they purposed to spend the night. —Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop, 1841

  3. <I've been purposing to fix that thing for some time now.>

Origin and Etymology of purpose

(see 1purpose)

First Known Use: 14th century

PURPOSE Defined for Kids


noun pur·pose \ˈpər-pəs\

Definition of purpose for Students

  1. :  something set up as a goal to be achieved :  intention, aim <“… my purpose in writing this brief note is to suggest that we meet.” — E. B. White, Stuart Little>

on purpose

Law Dictionary


noun pur·pose \ˈpər-pəs\

Legal Definition of purpose

  1. :  an objective, effect, or result aimed at or attained; specifically :  the business activity in which a corporation is chartered to engage


\-fəl\ play adjective





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