imperative

1 of 2

adjective

im·​per·​a·​tive im-ˈper-ə-tiv How to pronounce imperative (audio)
-ˈpe-rə-
1
: not to be avoided or evaded : necessary
an imperative duty
2
a
: 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
imperatively adverb
imperativeness noun

imperative

2 of 2

noun

1
: something that is imperative (see imperative entry 1): such as
a
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
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
No accountability, no trust — and no one to pay. Creating a precedent now that news has a real value is imperative, so that when AI sucks it all in it is reasonable for news companies to demand that their content be licensed or otherwise compensated before its ground up and made untrackable. Anita Chabria, Los Angeles Times, 8 Feb. 2024 Relationships that are imperative in the formative years of education. Charlotte Observer, 8 Feb. 2024 Convincing consumers to cough up for AI could also be imperative for Google. Paresh Dave, WIRED, 8 Feb. 2024 Of Indian workers, about 61% also said adopting green skills, or technical knowledge that supports environmentally sustainable decisions, is imperative in today’s workforce, compared with just 39% of global respondents. Sunny Nagpaul, Fortune, 7 Feb. 2024 Having resources and information readily available is imperative. Lexy Perez, The Hollywood Reporter, 5 Feb. 2024 In short, rebounding is imperative for the Frogs to compete when Big 12 play begins Jan. 5. Stefan Stevenson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 31 Jan. 2024 Coordinating all the resources is imperative for grid operators. Rob Nikolewski, San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 Jan. 2024 Amidst the current challenges, partnering with a brokerage offering robust risk services support becomes imperative for entertainment organizations. Andrew Forchelli, The Hollywood Reporter, 24 Jan. 2024
Noun
Authenticity, in this context, is not just a buzzword but a strategic imperative to stand out in a crowded digital landscape. Patrick O'Neill, Forbes, 12 Feb. 2024 Bird would eventually reverse course and take a more collaborative approach with local and state officials, but the company sometimes struggled to reconcile being a good citizen with its hardwired growth imperatives. Jason Del Rey, Fortune, 25 Jan. 2024 Preventing color revolutions is a shared imperative for both the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). Jianli Yang, National Review, 23 Dec. 2023 And along with all the above, a constant imperative: Write the fullest truth about what and who shaped this man’s multitudes. Mitchell S. Jackson, New York Times, 20 Dec. 2023 And the bottom-line imperative from the beginning of the industry has been reliability. Bill McKibben, The New Yorker, 20 Nov. 2023 Officials from Gwinnett County Public Schools liken the academic imperative to driving a car. Jackie Valley, The Christian Science Monitor, 23 Jan. 2024 Both have echoed statements from community members and leaders stressing that there’s a moral imperative to address the humanitarian crisis. Heidi Pérez-Moreno, Washington Post, 19 Jan. 2024 Voters who held strong anticommunist feelings saw the party’s aggressive stance toward the Soviet Union—and support for anticommunists across Central America and Africa—as both a moral imperative and a strategic necessity. Gerald F. Seib, Foreign Affairs, 9 Jan. 2024 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Adjective

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

Noun

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

First Known Use

Adjective

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

Noun

1530, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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

Dictionary Entries Near imperative

Cite this Entry

“Imperative.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/imperative. Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

imperative

1 of 2 adjective
im·​per·​a·​tive im-ˈper-ət-iv How to pronounce imperative (audio)
1
a
: of, relating to, or being the grammatical mood that expresses a command, request, or encouragement
b
: expressing a command, request, or strong encouragement
an imperative sentence
2
: impossible to avoid or ignore : urgent
imperatively adverb
imperativeness noun

imperative

2 of 2 noun
1
: the imperative mood of a verb or a verb in this mood
2
: something that is imperative (as a command or required act)

Medical Definition

imperative

adjective
im·​per·​a·​tive im-ˈper-ət-iv How to pronounce imperative (audio)
: eliciting a motor response
an imperative stimulus

More from Merriam-Webster on imperative

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