cross-pur·​pose ˈkrȯs-ˈpər-pəs How to pronounce cross-purpose (audio)
: a purpose usually unintentionally contrary to another purpose of oneself or of someone or something else
usually used in plural
the two were always working at cross-purposes

Examples of cross-purpose in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Perhaps fittingly, then, the plan’s execution seems to be under a spell too, with everyone lost in an entanglement of sloppiness, cross-purposes and bad luck. Tom Gliatto, Peoplemag, 19 Aug. 2023 Though the flows are manicured and melodic, the bars stumble over the album’s cross-purposes. Vulture, 2 Aug. 2023 Their loose confederation has its cross-purposes and is united mainly by hostility toward the United States. Philip Zelikow, Foreign Affairs, 21 June 2022 Over the last year, the Fed’s duties as an inflation fighter and a bank regulator have been at cross-purposes. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 21 Mar. 2023 Added difficulty stems from the fact that typical solutions for them can work at cross-purposes. Erika Page, The Christian Science Monitor, 16 Mar. 2023 In my experience, nothing can hold a team back more than using different spreadsheets for cross-purposes. Rahul Shah, Forbes, 9 Mar. 2023 Shree sets out to explore how Ma’s muteness brings out the best and worst in her kin, among whom there are constant exchanges at cross-purposes but few scenes of direct, meaningful conversation. Anjum Hasan, The New York Review of Books, 2 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cross-purpose.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1668, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of cross-purpose was in 1668

Dictionary Entries Near cross-purpose

Cite this Entry

“Cross-purpose.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


: a purpose unintentionally contrary to someone else's purpose
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