cause

1 of 2

noun

1
a
: a reason for an action or condition : motive
b
: something that brings about an effect or a result
trying to find the cause of the accident
c
: a person or thing that is the occasion of an action or state
a cause for celebration
especially : an agent that brings something about
She is the cause of your troubles.
d
: sufficient reason
discharged for cause
2
a
: a ground of legal action
b
: case
They are paid by the cause for their expert opinions.
3
: a matter or question to be decided
The city council is involved with school department causes.
4
a
: a principle or movement militantly defended or supported
the insurgents' cause
b
: a charitable undertaking
for a good cause
causeless adjective

cause

2 of 2

verb

caused; causing

transitive verb

1
: to serve as a cause or occasion of
cause an accident
2
: to compel by command, authority, or force
caused him to resign
causer noun

Example Sentences

Noun His symptoms had no apparent physical causes. She is the cause of all their problems. The medicine was prescribed without good cause. Their marriage was a cause for celebration. I can support a cause that means something to me. I'm willing to donate money as long as it's for a good cause. Verb He swerved and caused an accident. The flood caused great hardship. The illness is caused by a virus. The flood caused the town great hardship. You caused us a lot of extra work. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
In many cases, cancellation is best understood not as some capricious social force, but as a system of cause-and-effect led primarily by the artist. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, 19 Nov. 2022 Falls are the leading cause of injury and death for those 65 and older, with nearly 30% in this age group reporting at least one fall in 2018, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Melanie Radzicki Mcmanus, CNN, 18 Nov. 2022 Former coaches Rick Pitino and Chris Mack were not sanctioned, but former U of L assistants Kenny Johnson and Jordan Fair were assessed two-year show-cause penalties. Andrew Wolfson, The Courier-Journal, 18 Nov. 2022 This game helps develop cognitive skills, spatial recognition and an understanding of cause-and-effect. Rachel Rothman, Good Housekeeping, 18 Nov. 2022 Things can be improved with determination to sniff out the cause of the problem—and some pricey hardware. Medea Giordano, WIRED, 17 Nov. 2022 Will Arizona's minimum wage increase cause problems for businesses? Russ Wiles, The Arizona Republic, 16 Nov. 2022 Both sets of guidelines say students should become comfortable identifying cause-and-effect relationships in history and learn that economic thinking requires making choices. Hannah Natanson, Washington Post, 16 Nov. 2022 The cause of the crash, including any motive behind it, is under investigation. Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times, 16 Nov. 2022
Verb
Along with causing headaches and pain, the physical stress of wearing tight up-do hairstyles every day can cause damage to your hair in the form of traction alopecia. Kelsey Stiegman, Seventeen, 21 Nov. 2022 Hotter temperatures will cause proteins to coagulate faster. Ali Francis, Bon Appétit, 20 Nov. 2022 This may cause further concerns among politicians who want to tax oil company windfall profits. Paul R. La Monica, CNN, 20 Nov. 2022 This latest injury setback will cause Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who introduced a new starting group Friday night, to reshuffle his rotation once more. Chris Fedor, cleveland, 19 Nov. 2022 In older people, RSV can cause complications of existing chronic conditions or lead to pneumonia. Sumathi Reddy, WSJ, 18 Nov. 2022 Winter may be the primary season, when heating systems drive moisture from the air, but air conditioner use in summer can cause it, too. Paige Szmodis, Popular Mechanics, 18 Nov. 2022 High diesel fuel prices could cause food costs to spike if prices are still elevated when farmers, who use diesel to power their tractors, start tilling their land. Megan Cerullo, CBS News, 17 Nov. 2022 Left for longer, the pathogen would eventually cause issues. Eric Boodman, STAT, 17 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cause.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

Middle English, borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin causa "judicial proceedings, interests of one side in a judicial case, plea, pretext, ground of action, motive, reason," of uncertain origin

Verb

Middle English causen, borrowed from Anglo-French & Medieval Latin; Anglo-French causer, borrowed from Medieval Latin causāre, causārī "to plead, accuse, blame, serve as the cause of, occasion," going back to Latin causārī "to plead an action in law, plead as an excuse," derivative of causa "judicial proceedings, plea, cause entry 1"

First Known Use

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of cause was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near cause

Cite this Entry

“Cause.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cause. Accessed 30 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

cause 1 of 2

noun

1
: something or someone that brings about a result or condition
2
: a good or adequate reason
a cause for celebration
3
a
: a ground of legal action
b
: something supported or deserving support
a worthy cause
causeless adjective

cause

2 of 2

verb

caused; causing
: to be the cause of

Legal Definition

cause 1 of 2

noun

1
: something that brings about an effect or result
the negligent act which was the cause of the plaintiff's injury

Note: The cause of an injury must be proven in both tort and criminal cases.

actual cause
: cause in fact in this entry
but-for cause
: cause in fact in this entry
cause in fact
: a cause without which the result would not have occurred

called also actual cause, but-for cause

concurrent cause
: a cause that joins simultaneously with another cause to produce a result

called also concurring cause

compare intervening cause and superseding cause in this entry
direct cause
: proximate cause in this entry
efficient intervening cause
: superseding cause in this entry
intervening cause
: an independent cause that follows another cause in time in producing the result but does not interrupt the chain of causation if foreseeable

called also supervening cause

compare concurrent cause and superseding cause in this entry
: superseding cause in this entry
legal cause
: proximate cause in this entry
procuring cause
: one (as a broker) that sets in motion a continuous series of events culminating especially in the sale or leasing of real estate entitled to a commission as the procuring cause of the sale even though the listing had expired
producing cause
: an efficient, exciting, or contributing cause (as an act, practice, or event) that produces an injury which would not have occurred without it claimed that the workplace accident was a producing cause of his disability used especially in workers' compensation and consumer protection cases

Note: A producing cause lacks the element of foreseeability associated with a proximate cause, being more exclusively concerned with causation in fact.

proximate cause
: a cause that sets in motion a sequence of events uninterrupted by any superseding causes and that results in a usually foreseeable effect (as an injury) which would not otherwise have occurred

called also direct cause, legal cause

see also Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co. compare remote cause in this entry
remote cause
: a cause that is followed by a superseding cause interrupting the chain of causation
also : a cause that in ordinary experience does not lead to a particular effect compare proximate cause in this entry
superseding cause
: an unforeseeable intervening cause that interrupts the chain of causation and becomes the proximate cause of the effect

called also efficient intervening cause, intervening cause

compare concurrent cause and intervening cause in this entry
supervening cause
: intervening cause in this entry
2
: a reason or justification for an action or state (as belief): as
a
: good cause in this entry
an appeal dismissed for cause
b
: just cause in this entry
behavior that constitutes cause to terminate an employee

Note: The circumstances under which cause, good cause, just cause, probable cause, reasonable cause, or sufficient cause exists are determined on a case by case basis. These terms are often used interchangeably, and the distinctions between them are sometimes unclear.

good cause
: a substantial reason put forth in good faith that is not unreasonable, arbitrary, or irrational and that is sufficient to create an excuse for an act under the law unable to show good cause for failure to pay child support neglect of duty is good cause for removal of a trustee
just cause
: cause that a person of ordinary intelligence would consider a fair and reasonable justification for an act used especially in cases involving termination of employment and denial of unemployment benefits
: good cause in this entry
probable cause \ ˈprä-​bə-​bəl-​ \
: a reasonable ground in fact and circumstance for a belief in the existence of certain circumstances (as that an offense has been or is being committed, that a person is guilty of an offense, that a particular search will uncover contraband, that an item to be seized is in a particular place, or that a specific fact or cause of action exists) when supported by probable cause, warrantless search of vehicle may extend to every part of vehicle where objects of search might be concealed State v. Nixon, 593 N.E.2d 1210 (1992)

called also reasonable cause, sufficient cause

compare reasonable suspicion

Note: The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution stipulates that “no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause.” Probable cause is also required for a warrantless arrest. Probable cause is an objective standard rather than a function of subjective opinion or suspicion not grounded in fact or circumstance. However, the facts or circumstances need not be of the nature of certainty necessary to establish proof in court.

: justification for an administrative search based on a showing that it is to be conducted in accordance with standardized nonarbitrary regulatory procedures designed to further public interest in regulatory enforcement that outweighs the intrusiveness of the search
reasonable cause
: probable cause in this entry
also : a fact or circumstance that justifies a reasonable suspicion compare reasonable suspicion
: a reason that would motivate a person of ordinary intelligence under the circumstances reasonable cause to believe abuse had occurred
: something (as an event or the exercise of ordinary care or prudence) that excuses or justifies failure to file a tax return on time
sufficient cause
: cause that is deemed enough to provide an excuse under the law: as
a : good cause in this entry often used in the phrase good and sufficient cause
b : probable cause in this entry
3
a
: a ground of a legal action
tortious conduct is not a cause of divorce embraced within the statutory cause of cruel and inhuman treatment Case & Comment
b
: case
questions of law…determinative of the cause then pending R. T. Gerwatowski
4
in the civil law of Louisiana : the reason for making a contract compare frustration sense 2

Note: Under the Louisiana Civil Code, if a contract's cause is illicit or immoral, the contract is absolutely null. If the cause fails after the contract is made (as when a leased building cannot be occupied because of a fire), the contract may either be not enforced or only partially enforced.

cause

2 of 2

transitive verb

caused; causing
1
: to serve as the cause of
the scales struck the plaintiff causing injuries for which she sues Palsgraf v. Long Island R.R. Co., 162 N.E. 99 (1928)
2
: to effect by command, authority, or force
the administrator shall cause an investigation to be made

More from Merriam-Webster on cause

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ