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.” See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective That said, for a system to be human-centric is imperative. Sayandeb Banerjee, Forbes, 18 May 2022 That's why a rapid transition to clean energy is imperative. Kevin Johnson And Mark Ruffalo For, CNN, 17 May 2022 Transactions like these expose the messy underside of the global energy transition away from fossil fuels, a shift that is imperative to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. New York Times, 10 May 2022 Because for her, a great customer experience is imperative. Washington Post, 9 May 2022 Pairing him with the right coach will be imperative. Tristan Lavalette, Forbes, 24 Apr. 2022 Snyder added that overall defensive improvement — both individually and collectively — is imperative. Eric Walden, The Salt Lake Tribune, 21 Apr. 2022 Temperature is a measurement of atom vibration speed in the detector, according to a NASA news release, so reducing the temperature is imperative to dial down the dark current. Manasee Wagh, Popular Mechanics, 18 Apr. 2022 Having that extra me-time will be imperative because Taurus season is also accompanied by another important astrological event: eclipse season. Elizabeth Gulino,, 18 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun There is also a scientific imperative to move away from their use. Anna C. F. Lewis, STAT, 4 May 2022 Taking a harder line on Russia, a parade of American and European emissaries argued, is a global imperative. New York Times, 4 May 2022 The sense of urgency and national imperative was reflected in U.S. policy documents, the budget, and weapons deployments. Rebeccah Heinrichs, National Review, 23 Apr. 2022 The status quo lays bare a moral imperative, and an opportunity, for the philanthropic sector to take a new approach to dismantling the structures keeping climate justice elusive. John Palfrey, CNN, 22 Apr. 2022 County Judge Darryl Mahoney said expanding broadband coverage to underserved areas is a 21st-century imperative. Arkansas Online, 16 Mar. 2022 Kristine Berzina, senior fellow and head of the geopolitics team for the German Marshall Fund — a think tank in Washington — said the invasion has created a moral imperative to move away from Russian energy and toward cleaner technologies. Los Angeles Times, 7 Mar. 2022 To some extent, investing in sustainability in the developing world is a moral imperative as well as a commercially viable venture. Shivaram Rajgopal, Forbes, 1 Jan. 2022 Yet the moral imperative of exiting Russia becomes increasingly gray the closer a company comes to providing basic needs to the population at large. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 18 Mar. 2022 See More

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

22 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Imperative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for imperative


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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