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

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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.”
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective With so few meteors visible each hour, a dark sky is imperative. Katherine Rosenberg-douglas,, "Meteor shower visibility should peak early Wednesday. Here are 5 ways Chicagoans can maximize chances of ‘catching’ the show.," 4 May 2021 This is why a continuous focus on cybersecurity fundamentals is imperative. Alexander Guedez, Forbes, "Four Practical Tips For Maintaining The Cybersecurity Of Your Remote Company," 4 May 2021 And this is a part Foltz said is imperative not to skip. Kathrine Nero, The Enquirer, "'About Us' with Kathrine Nero: Guess how many tulip bulbs help make Zoo Blooms happen?," 25 Apr. 2021 Democrats have opposed the bill, arguing that coronavirus vaccinations are imperative to lower the number of infections in the state. Andrew Mark Miller, Washington Examiner, "Bill banning state government from mandating coronavirus vaccine passes in Tennessee House," 22 Apr. 2021 Keeping your toilet bowl's interior clean and washing the nozzle and bidet seat with an antibacterial cleanser is imperative. Corey Whelan,, "How to Use a Bidet Toilet Seat," 20 Apr. 2021 Leadership at the federal level is imperative to support our nation’s recycling system and ongoing congressional action sends a powerful message that the federal government prioritizes waste reduction and recycling. Baker Institute, Forbes, "Smart Policy And Innovative Technologies, Like Advanced Recycling, Will Deliver On Climate And Sustainability Goals," 19 Apr. 2021 Addressing systemic issues tied to financial education is imperative and will only help support minorities in the next crisis, pandemic or otherwise. Stuart Rohatiner,, "Support minorities through financial education | Opinion," 15 Apr. 2021 Veysey said that imperative was in conflict with the desire of Landmarks Commission members who wanted the building set back from West 25th Street so as not to obscure views of the nearby St. Malachi Church. Steven Litt, cleveland, "Cleveland Landmarks Commission approves 16-story Bridgeworks apartment-hotel project at west end of Detroit Superior Bridge," 9 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Today the imperative is to address the overshadowing issues of climate change and sustainability. Julio Gonzalez, Forbes, "Why Lawmakers Should Adjust The New Energy Efficiency Deduction Standard," 16 Apr. 2021 The second is to recognize that longer lives create a new health imperative of ageing well.. London Business School, Forbes, "Managing The ‘stress Test': A Post Covid-19 Agenda For Older Persons," 20 Apr. 2021 The changes actually came before the Connecticut law's 2020 implementation, but last year's events underscored the imperative to revise the curriculum. Mike Catalini, ajc, "Students lead US push for fuller Black history education," 16 Apr. 2021 The changes actually came before the Connecticut law’s 2020 implementation, but last year’s events underscored the imperative to revise the curriculum. NBC News, "Students lead US push for fuller Black history education," 9 Apr. 2021 Minnesota Judge Peter Cahill has impressed on jurors the imperative of separating their own feelings about race and Chauvin from what prosecutors can prove with evidence in the courtroom. Stephen Collinson And Caitlin Hu, CNN, "Outside the courtroom, the trial over George Floyd's death is seen as a test of the US itself," 30 Mar. 2021 Among these is the decision to withhold treatment, one of the key ways in which Washington sees the imperative of informed consent slipping away. Washington Post, "A bioethicist warns that informed consent is endangered," 12 Mar. 2021 The imperative of party power and control means subordinating everyone and everything, including top business magnates and their firms. Ann Scott Tyson, The Christian Science Monitor, "Vilified abroad, popular at home: China's Communist Party at 100," 18 Feb. 2021 The new imperative is to quickly conceptualize, test, launch, and operationalize a series of smaller products and services targeted at specific segments of the market. Ron Shevlin, Forbes, "Embedded Fintech Versus Embedded Finance: Jumpstarting New Product Innovation In Banks," 12 Apr. 2021

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.

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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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Learn More about imperative

Time Traveler for imperative

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for imperative

Last Updated

10 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Imperative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for imperative



English Language Learners Definition of imperative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

formal : very important
grammar : having the form that expresses a command rather than a statement or a question
formal : expressing a command in a forceful and confident way



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

formal : a command, rule, duty, etc., that is very important or necessary
: the form that a verb or sentence has when it is expressing a command
: an imperative verb or sentence


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 see a doctor.


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

Medical Definition of imperative

: eliciting a motor response an imperative stimulus

Comments on imperative

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