imperative

adjective
im·​per·​a·​tive | \ im-ˈper-ə-tiv, -ˈpe-rə-\

Definition of imperative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : 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
2 : not to be avoided or evaded : necessary an imperative duty

imperative

noun
im·​per·​a·​tive | \ im-ˈper-ə-tiv, -ˈpe-rə-\

Definition of imperative (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the grammatical mood that expresses the will to influence the behavior of another or a verb form or verbal phrase expressing it
2 : 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

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Other Words from imperative

Adjective

imperatively adverb
imperativeness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for imperative

Adjective

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

Many would say there is a moral imperative for platforms to take down legal-but-offensive or harmful speech — including seriously disturbing material like Holocaust denial tracts and suicide how-to videos. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Trump keeps complaining about bias on Twitter — but what can he do about it? 8 experts weigh in.," 23 Aug. 2018 The imperative of this programme is that in order to succeed you have to reach everybody. Karen Bartlett, Newsweek, "Eradicating the Last 1% of Polio Is Deadly but Essential," 28 Nov. 2014 To that end, being able to call someone immediately to resolve issues is imperative. Vernal Coleman, The Seattle Times, "Seattle, King County look to Atlanta program to entice landlords to rent to homeless, but can it work here?," 26 Dec. 2018 Listen, the only way to make it through ugly sweater party season is with lots, and lots of booze, so this multipurpose option is imperative. Danielle Tullo, House Beautiful, "This Ugly Christmas Stocking Sweater Will Literally Hold Your Beer (And Wine)," 30 Nov. 2018 Boosting production of higher-margin vehicles is imperative as auto sales flatten after eight years of robust growth and rising interest rates curb demand. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Trump’s GM Collision," 27 Nov. 2018 According to Malle, a smooth delivery is imperative when presenting a fragrance. Zoe Ruffner, Vogue, "The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Gifting Perfume by Personality Type," 6 Dec. 2018 The wave took shape with the New Deal, grew during the World War II rush to build military housing and crested with the postwar imperative to provide homes for returning GIs. Susanne Craig, The Seattle Times, "Trump engaged in suspect tax schemes as he reaped riches from father," 2 Oct. 2018 It’s hard to remain reasonable women and men in such moments, but all the more imperative. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "Moral anchors aweigh on Kavanaugh, Rosenstein," 24 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Cruz has voted down efforts to price greenhouse gas emissions while O’Rourke has framed fighting climate change as an economic imperative. Umair Irfan, Vox, "Governor races really matter for climate change. Here are the ones to watch.," 5 Nov. 2018 Jassy noted any law-enforcement agency that violates AWS' terms of service or is found guilty of a constitutional rights violation would have to curtail using the product, but stressed the regulatory imperative is mainly on governments. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "Can Anyone Stop Our Slide into Face-Scanning Dystopia?," 9 Nov. 2018 Savall is sensitive to the imperative of centering the narrative around these voices. Thomas May, The Seattle Times, "‘The Routes of Slavery’ traces a musical journey of resilience in the face of inhumanity," 31 Oct. 2018 But the Trump administration is adding a third policy imperative: immigration enforcement. Dara Lind, Vox, "Finding homes for immigrant kids is hard. Trump’s making it harder — by arresting their relatives.," 21 Sep. 2018 China will not relent on industrial policy imperatives, such as Made in China 2025, aimed at building self-reliance. New York Times, "In About-Face on Trade, Trump Vows to Protect ZTE Jobs in China," 13 May 2018 Rather than rush to the next issue that needs to be addressed, set goals and benchmarks to make sure managers and all levels are following through on achieving diversity imperatives. Grace Donnelly, Fortune, "What Employers and Recruiters Need to Consider When Trying to Make Their Workplaces More Diverse," 11 June 2018 Domestic Policy Riyadh's desire for higher prices is driven by domestic policy imperatives. Javier Blas, Houston Chronicle, "Are Saudis pushing OPEC for $80 a barrel oil?," 10 Apr. 2018 What most alarms congressional negotiators is that political imperatives appear to have overtaken the immigration policy deliberations in the still-unfolding debate over Mr. Trump’s vulgar description in last Thursday’s meeting of some nations. Jonathan Martin, Michael D. Shear And Sheryl Gay Stolberg, New York Times, "As Shutdown Talk Rises, Trump’s Immigration Words Pose Risks for Both Parties," 15 Jan. 2018

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

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun

1530, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for imperative

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

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Last Updated

14 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for imperative

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

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More Definitions for imperative

imperative

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of imperative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: very important

grammar : having the form that expresses a command rather than a statement or a question

: expressing a command in a forceful and confident way

imperative

noun

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

: a command, rule, duty, etc., that is very important or necessary

grammar the imperative : the form that a verb or sentence has when it is expressing a command

: an imperative verb or sentence

imperative

adjective
im·​per·​a·​tive | \ im-ˈper-ə-tiv \

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.

imperative

adjective
im·​per·​a·​tive | \ im-ˈper-ət-iv \

Medical Definition of imperative

: eliciting a motor response an imperative stimulus

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