\ ˈkȯz \

Definition of cause 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : 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

2a : 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.

4a : a principle or movement militantly defended or supported the insurgents' cause

b : a charitable undertaking for a good cause


caused; causing

Definition of cause (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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Other words from cause


causeless \-ləs \ adjective


causer noun

Examples of cause in a Sentence


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.


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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

For some, the shooting solidified Flynt’s position as a free speech icon, as a martyr for the cause. Cincinnati Enquirer, "Read more from this Project," 13 July 2018 Schnatter voted for the termination for cause of Jurich’s contract. Jake Lourim, The Courier-Journal, "15 months of John Schnatter: A timeline of his Louisville headlines," 12 July 2018 If a tree shows leaf scorch without any obvious explanation, call in a certified professional arborist to look for a cause. Beth Botts,, "Brown leaves in summer probably signal scorched plants," 11 July 2018 The director can only be fired for cause — not because the president just feels like it. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Consumer advocacy groups are extremely worried about Brett Kavanaugh," 11 July 2018 The Brewers have been making multiple appearances in the community to encourage voting, have used the #WeBelieveInJesús hashtag and even have printed shirts for the cause. Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "After first day of voting, Jesus Aguilar leads 'Final Vote' standings," 10 July 2018 Kavanaugh dissented from the court's ruling that the bureau is constitutional, even though its director can only be removed by the president for good cause. Richard Wolf, USA TODAY, "Will Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh deliver the change conservatives crave?," 10 July 2018 In a 2008 case, the appeals court upheld the structure of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, whose members were appointed by the Securities and Exchange Commission and could only be removed by the S.E.C. for good cause. Charlie Savage, New York Times, "Brett Kavanaugh on the Issues: Abortion, Guns, Climate and More," 10 July 2018 Any columnist or newspaper comments reader can tell you there’s a level of venom aimed at points of view, individuals featured in the news, and any voice for any cause, that is (in my decades of journalism) unmatched in poisonous tone. John Baer,, "Take a moment, America | John Baer," 3 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Other countries typically have sports ministries and government organizations that run the Olympics, which often lead to the cost overruns and wasteful infrastructure that have caused so much bad publicity for the IOC. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "Will LA’s ‘no-build’ Olympics spur Southern California’s next building boom?," 10 July 2018 With third degree burns on his face and arms, Childress became the first patient to be treated at the Virginia Commonwealth University medical center for an injury caused by the toxic giant hogweed plant, the hospital told WWBT. Jennifer Calfas, Time, "A Virginia Teen Suffered Third Degree Burns After Encountering a Giant Hogweed Plant," 13 July 2018 Both departments of health report that a portion of the people who suffered from the illness had eaten a salad at a McDonald’s in the days leading to their sickness. Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by the Cyclospora parasite. Don Reisinger, Fortune, "More Than 100 People Ill From Parasite Possibly Linked to McDonald's Salads," 13 July 2018 Some labour shortages are worth worrying about even while inflation is contained: those caused by restrictions on labour supply. The Economist, "Worker shortages could heal America’s economy," 12 July 2018 The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created in 1949 as Europe was still reeling from the devastation caused by the war. John Fritze, USA TODAY, "What is NATO and why is Donald Trump slamming it?," 12 July 2018 The effect, caused by a large concentration of concrete and traffic, means meteorologists use temperatures at KCI as the most accurate measurement of heat in the area. Max Londberg, kansascity, "KC hits 100 degrees for first time in years, but cooler temps coming, meteorologist says," 12 July 2018 The tribe says there were two waves of flooding caused by recent monsoon storms in northern Arizona. Dawn Gilbertson, azcentral, "Flash flood closes Havasupai falls," 12 July 2018 Researchers compared the breakthrough to the 2017 detection of ripples in space time caused by colliding dead stars, which added gravitational waves to scientists' toolbox for observing the cosmos. Author: Sarah Kaplan, Anchorage Daily News, "In a cosmic first, scientists detect ‘ghost particles’ from a distant galaxy," 12 July 2018

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.

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First Known Use of cause


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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for cause


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


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"

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Statistics for cause

Last Updated

10 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for cause

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

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More Definitions for cause



English Language Learners Definition of cause

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: something or someone that produces an effect, result, or condition : something or someone that makes something happen or exist

: a reason for doing or feeling something

: something (such as an organization, belief, idea, or goal) that a group or people support or fight for



English Language Learners Definition of cause (Entry 2 of 2)

: to make (something) happen or exist : to be the cause of (something)

: to make (someone) feel, have, or do something


\ ˈkȯz \

Kids Definition of cause

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : a person or thing that brings about a result Carelessness is the cause of many accidents.

2 : a good or good enough reason for something His return was a cause for rejoicing.

3 : something supported or deserving support a worthy cause


caused; causing

Kids Definition of cause (Entry 2 of 3)

: to make happen or exist You'll cause an accident.


\ ˈkȯz , ˈkəz \

Kids Definition of cause (Entry 3 of 3)



Legal Definition of cause 

(Entry 1 of 2)

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

1 : 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

2 : 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

1 : 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

2 : good cause in this entry

probable cause \ˈprä-bə-bəl- \

1 : 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 concealedState 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.

2 : 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

1 : probable cause in this entry also : a fact or circumstance that justifies a reasonable suspicion — compare reasonable suspicion

2 : a reason that would motivate a person of ordinary intelligence under the circumstances reasonable cause to believe abuse had occurred

3 : 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

3a : a ground of a legal action tortious conduct is not a cause of divorce embraced within the statutory cause of cruel and inhuman treatmentCase & 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.

caused; causing

Legal Definition of cause (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to serve as the cause of the scales struck the plaintiff causing injuries for which she suesPalsgraf 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

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Comments on cause

What made you want to look up cause? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the setting in which something occurs

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