im·​per·​a·​tive | \ im-ˈper-ə-tiv How to pronounce imperative (audio) , -ˈpe-rə- \

Definition of imperative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : not to be avoided or evaded : necessary an imperative duty
2a : of, relating to, or constituting the grammatical mood that expresses the will to influence the behavior of another
b : expressive of a command, entreaty, or exhortation
c : having power to restrain, control, and direct



Definition of imperative (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : something that is imperative (see imperative entry 1): such as
a : command, order
b : rule, guide
c : an obligatory act or duty
d : an obligatory judgment or proposition
2 : the grammatical mood that expresses the will to influence the behavior of another or a verb form or verbal phrase expressing it

Other Words from imperative


imperatively adverb
imperativeness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for imperative


masterful, domineering, imperious, peremptory, imperative mean tending to impose one's will on others. masterful implies a strong personality and ability to act authoritatively. her masterful personality soon dominated the movement domineering suggests an overbearing or arbitrary manner and an obstinate determination to enforce one's will. children controlled by domineering parents imperious implies a commanding nature or manner and often suggests arrogant assurance. an imperious executive used to getting his own way peremptory implies an abrupt dictatorial manner coupled with an unwillingness to brook disobedience or dissent. given a peremptory dismissal imperative implies peremptoriness arising more from the urgency of the situation than from an inherent will to dominate. an imperative appeal for assistance

Examples of imperative in a Sentence

Adjective … I have begun to feel each time as if I am mutilating my antennae (which is how Rastafarians, among others, think of hair) and attenuating my power. It seems imperative not to cut my hair anymore. — Alice Walker, Living by the Word, (1981) 1988 This strange and distorted form of breathing could be interrupted for a minute or two by a strong effort of will, but would then resume its bizarre and imperative character. — Oliver Sacks, Awakenings, 1973 We had a long and interesting evening with the Katzenbachs. He and Lyndon discussed the imperative need to make Washington a law-abiding city and how to go about it. — Lady Bird Johnson 27 Jan. 1965, A White House Diary1970 “Eat your spinach!” is an imperative sentence. “Help” in the sentence “Help me!” is an imperative verb. a verb in the imperative mood People resented his imperative tone of voice. Noun Ellroy has got to be the only writer who still uses "dig" as an imperative — Laura Miller, New York Times Book Review, 20 May 2001 Indeed, under pressure from a new way of life in which radiant heat from woodburning stoves must circulate unimpeded by dividers, virtually every house with a chimney today has abandoned the closed-door imperative of the high-technology kitchen. — Maxine Kumin, In Deep, 1987 "Maturity" had been a code word … for marriage and settling down; "growth" implied a plurality of legitimate options, if not a positive imperative to keep moving from one insight or experience to the next. — Barbara Ehrenreich, New York Times Magazine, 20 May 1984 She considers it a moral imperative to help people in need. “Eat your spinach!” is in the imperative. “Go” and “buy” are imperatives in the sentence “Please go to the store and buy some milk.” See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Babby is not a politician, but maintaining a relationship with the presiding mayor is imperative. Marc Bona, cleveland, 25 July 2022 Supporting those that speak out about texturism and who are most harmed by hair discrimination is vital and educating others about this type of discrimination is imperative. Janice Gassam Asare, Forbes, 25 July 2022 Paying close attention to see if any of these symptoms occur can be imperative in knowing when to seek medical attention. Zoe Christen Jones, CBS News, 23 July 2022 His vote is imperative for Democrats to be able to use the budget reconciliation process for the bill, a process that only requires a majority vote rather than the 60-vote filibuster threshold. Jason Donner, Fox News, 15 July 2022 Since gliding, like so many things in life, is beholden to Mother Nature, reading the atmosphere is imperative for a glider pilot. Marc Bona, cleveland, 4 July 2022 Ensuring Cappa is healthy by the start of training camp is imperative for the Bengals. Kelsey Conway, The Enquirer, 14 June 2022 To curate and maintain a peaceful relationship, gaining clarity upfront and knowing how to negotiate through a contract are imperative for a restaurant tenant or buyer. Robin Gagnon, Forbes, 7 June 2022 Getting Bigsby the ball is imperative for an Auburn team looking for playmakers. al, 9 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Financing any new structure could mean foregoing tax-exempt status and soliciting private equity that would demand a return on its investment (a business imperative that seems quaint next to the profligacy of Norman). Eamon Lynch, USA TODAY, 24 July 2022 Cyber risk needs to become a business imperative managed through collaboration across the C-suite and the entire enterprise. Chris Taylor, Forbes, 18 July 2022 Quantum computing is a strategic imperative in the sense that a decision upon it should be taken by higher management with a broad vision of technological positioning of the company. Yehuda Naveh, Forbes, 29 June 2022 Diversifying America's energy portfolio is a national imperative. Charlie Dent, CNN, 26 June 2022 After 9/11, there was a clear imperative to go after the ultimate perpetrators of the attack. Richard Bernstein, WSJ, 14 June 2022 In this case, the need for anonymity had a different imperative: to protect the privacy of young, vulnerable adolescents. New York Times, 10 May 2022 There have been entreaties for compassion, including from Ukraine’s Jewish president and those who argue that Israel, a nation established in the aftermath of the Holocaust, has a moral imperative to help those in need. Washington Post, 19 Apr. 2022 What’s next for DID, says Palmer, is certainly about growth, and an imperative to pilot small but meaningful projects that can be replicated across industries and organizations. Nicole Gull Mcelroy, Fortune, 24 May 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of imperative


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a


1530, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for imperative


Middle English imperatyf, borrowed from Late Latin imperātīvus, from Latin imperātus, past participle of imperāre "to give orders, command" + -īvus -ive — more at emperor


borrowed from Late Latin imperātīvus, noun derivative of imperātīvus imperative entry 1

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Time Traveler for imperative

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The first known use of imperative was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

2 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Imperative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for imperative


im·​per·​a·​tive | \ im-ˈper-ə-tiv How to pronounce imperative (audio) \

Kids Definition of imperative

1 : expressing a command, request, or strong encouragement "Come here!" is an imperative sentence.
2 : urgent sense 1 It is imperative that you get help.


im·​per·​a·​tive | \ im-ˈper-ət-iv How to pronounce imperative (audio) \

Medical Definition of imperative

: eliciting a motor response an imperative stimulus

More from Merriam-Webster on imperative

Nglish: Translation of imperative for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of imperative for Arabic Speakers


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