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 For your offering’s resilience and your business’ continuity, having the flexibility required to either operate across cloud service providers or rapidly move to a new provider is imperative. Expert Panel®, Forbes, 15 Sep. 2021 The immediate answer is probably not, amid concerns about parent opposition, litigation and the challenge of one more complication at a time when academic recovery and mental health support are imperative. Laura Blasey, Los Angeles Times, 14 Sep. 2021 Player support and buy-in will be imperative, especially considering the fact that UConn isn’t favored in any remaining games this season, per ESPN’s SP+ ratings. Shawn Mcfarland,, 7 Sep. 2021 This is also why the safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy data are imperative to truly evaluate if the vaccine works against Covid-19. Manavi Kapur, Quartz, 23 Aug. 2021 Tracy, formerly a CBS News White House correspondent, said that finding a collective way to adapt to climate change is imperative for the survival of Earth and humanity. Jacob Rosen, CBS News, 3 Sep. 2021 While school districts might soon be scrambling to deal with soaring number of students in quarantine and a need to pause in-person learning for some classrooms in the coming weeks, experts say the preventive measures are imperative. Karen Ann Cullotta,, 3 Sep. 2021 Despite the adherence to masks and social distancing, Lee says the energy of a live crowd is imperative to the event. Nate Jackson, Los Angeles Times, 27 Aug. 2021 If bullying is part of the issue, a planning meeting with school staff on managing the issue is imperative. John Duffy, CNN, 23 Aug. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Biden is promising to speak in the coming days about how children can safely go back to school -- an imperative for the nation and for his own political standing. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 24 Aug. 2021 Beyond our human obligation, there is now also an overwhelming strategic imperative for this kind of collaboration on vaccines. Kevin Rudd, Time, 11 Aug. 2021 Both Lee and de Lande Long talked with Billboard about their vision for The Monarchs Collective and the urgent imperative for change. Gail Mitchell, Billboard, 19 Jan. 2021 This is an unmitigated good (and one that is a moral imperative to extend to the rest of the world). Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic, 15 Aug. 2021 In confronting the threat posed by China, America needs a grand strategy that preserves our essential national sovereignty while embracing our inheritance of Britain’s strategic imperative to defend the freedom of the commons. Robert Wilkie, National Review, 19 July 2021 Who really knows what the Democrats will do in 2024, but if Biden seeks reelection and doesn’t face a primary challenger, there will be less of an imperative to change the system, and Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status could live another day., 19 July 2021 The suits have a moral imperative to share—and share widely—in this new industry. Andrew Deangelo, Forbes, 28 Apr. 2021 Policymakers and business leaders have a moral and economic imperative to provide more assistance. Chip Bergh For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, 23 Mar. 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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Last Updated

19 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Imperative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for imperative



English Language Learners Definition of imperative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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



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

: 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 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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