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
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 Without accessibility, lasting change is not possible — being a part of the conversation is imperative, and all marginalized groups must have a seat at the table. Keah Brown, Allure, "This Year, the Women's March Wants Be More Accessible for Those With Disabilities," 17 Jan. 2020 Of course, as a fashion designer, having closet space is imperative. Kelly Corbett, House Beautiful, "Queer Eye Star Tan France's Handsome Home Has a Candle Closet and "Instagram Bathroom"," 13 Jan. 2020 Our performance in the third quarter was unsatisfactory and underscores the imperative for change,'' Mark Tritton, Bed Bath & Beyond's President and CEO said in an earnings call. Charisse Jones, USA TODAY, "Bed Bath & Beyond still plans to close 60 stores but officials say 20 closures will be delayed," 8 Jan. 2020 More: Read the latest oil and gas news from With climate change forecasts worsening, such subsidies are imperative, Glick and many Democrats maintain. James Osborne, Houston Chronicle, "FERC pushes back against state clean energy plans," 19 Dec. 2019 The list of players doesn’t end there, as Nagy said, improved run blocking between the tackles is imperative to jump-starting the offense. Rich Campbell,, "5 observations from rewatching the Bears’ Week 5 loss, including offensive line breakdowns and the Raiders’ plan for Khalil Mack," 9 Oct. 2019 To a public historian, that fact is an imperative to collect: to gather, preserve and share the material culture and voices of beer’s recent past and present, for the future. Theresa Mcculla, Smithsonian, "Here’s What’s Brewing in the New Smithsonian Beer Collections," 16 Sep. 2019 With Foster sidelined, Hamilton's growth became more imperative for Washington, and during the Redskins' mandatory minicamp in the first week of June, Gruden had said the former Carver-Montgomery standout looked fast and instinctive. Mark Inabinett |,, "Shaun Dion Hamilton tagged ‘most improved’ by Washington Redskins coach," 17 June 2019 Because her voters disproportionately favor Bernie Sanders as a second choice, getting Warren out of the race as soon as possible is imperative for him. David Faris, TheWeek, "2 winners and 3 losers from Iowa," 7 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Hiring and training refugees and other skilled immigrant workers is an economic imperative as well as a moral one. Katie Nielson, Quartz, "The US has a skills gap problem—and it’s ignoring its most obvious solution," 10 Jan. 2020 Every Tuesday and Friday for six weeks, Holmes developed the idea that the common law had evolved not according to any internal reason but according to the felt imperatives of the day. John Fabian Witt, The New Republic, "The Shrinking Legacy of a Supreme Court Justice," 1 Oct. 2019 The very gray world of redefining goals and moral imperatives provides a thread that ties together the series and applies to the ordinary reality many of us experience. cleveland, "‘Orphan X’ author Gregg Hurwitz to speak about latest thriller at Strongsville Library Feb. 5," 12 Jan. 2020 Ultimately, the number one imperative was to ground the lip-syncing in the overall performance. Maureen Lee Lenker,, "How the Soundtrack cast pulled off that flawless lip-syncing," 18 Dec. 2019 New approaches to airplane scheduling, disruption management, and aircraft positioning surveillance can help alleviate some of the strain and accommodate new traffic, which are imperatives for staying in business. Tracey Lindeman, Fortune, "Can Technology Save the Air Travel Industry From Its Delay Problem?," 13 Dec. 2019 The truth is the loudest voices arguing the moral imperative of wealth redistribution are, in fact, wealthy, at least by most people’s definition of the term. David Winston, Twin Cities, "David Winston: The Democratic field: middle-class heroes or millionaire hypocrites?," 24 Nov. 2019 Expanding government health-care coverage via Medicare for All and compensating victims for past and current discrimination are moral imperatives. Bobby Jindal, WSJ, "Conservatives, Put Culture First," 1 July 2019 The principle goal of public companies is to maximize values for shareholders, but national oil companies, as piggybanks for sovereigns, have different imperatives. Daniel Tenreiro, National Review, "The Saudi Aramco IPO Raises Serious Geopolitical Concerns," 13 Nov. 2019

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

25 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Imperative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for imperative


How to pronounce imperative (audio)

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

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