1 of 2


in·​tent in-ˈtent How to pronounce intent (audio)
: a usually clearly formulated or planned intention : aim
the director's intent
: the act or fact of intending : purpose
especially : the design or purpose to commit a wrongful or criminal act
admitted wounding him with intent
: the state of mind with which an act is done : volition


2 of 2


: directed with strained or eager attention : concentrated
: having the mind, attention, or will concentrated on something or some end or purpose
intent on their work
intentness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for intent

intention, intent, purpose, design, aim, end, object, objective, goal mean what one intends to accomplish or attain.

intention implies little more than what one has in mind to do or bring about.

announced his intention to marry

intent suggests clearer formulation or greater deliberateness.

the clear intent of the statute

purpose suggests a more settled determination.

being successful was her purpose in life

design implies a more carefully calculated plan.

the order of events came by accident, not design

aim adds to these implications of effort directed toward attaining or accomplishing.

her aim was to raise film to an art form

end stresses the intended effect of action often in distinction or contrast to the action or means as such.

willing to use any means to achieve his end

object may equal end but more often applies to a more individually determined wish or need.

his constant object was the achievement of pleasure

objective implies something tangible and immediately attainable.

their objective is to seize the oil fields

goal suggests something attained only by prolonged effort and hardship.

worked years to reach her goals

Examples of intent in a Sentence

Noun She thinks I'm trying to make things difficult for her, but that's not my intent. The intent of the law is to protect consumers. He was charged with assault with intent to kill. Adjective intent on finishing her sculpture in time for the group show he was so intent on his work that he didn't hear the dog bark
Recent Examples on the Web
In this case, Chen uses active listening to describe listening with the intent to know when to speak. Aditi Shrikant, CNBC, 12 July 2024 The married pair are accused of accessing sensitive military material with the intent to provide it to Russian authorities. Chad De Guzman, TIME, 12 July 2024
But their forsaken champion, Joe Biden, is still slouching toward Chicago, intent on securing his party’s nomination at the Democratic convention next month. Michael Cieply, Deadline, 14 July 2024 Townsend is intent on returning to a normal, quiet life back in Cleveland, though the threat of what happened on that mission casts a shadow over his ambitions. Steven J. Horowitz, Variety, 10 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for intent 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'intent.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English entente, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin intentus, from Latin, act of stretching out, from intendere


Latin intentus, from past participle of intendere

First Known Use


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of intent was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near intent

Cite this Entry

“Intent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
in·​tent in-ˈtent How to pronounce intent (audio)
: purpose sense 1, intention
with intent to injure
: meaning entry 1 sense 1a
the intent of the law


2 of 2 adjective
: directed with strained or eager attention
an intent gaze
: having the mind, attention, or will concentrated on something
: set on some end or purpose
intent on going
intently adverb
intentness noun

Legal Definition


in·​tent in-ˈtent How to pronounce intent (audio)
: the act or fact of intending: as
: the design or purpose to commit a wrongful or criminal act

called also criminal intent

compare knowledge, mens rea, motive, negligence
: the purpose to commit a tortious act having consequences that the actor desires and believes or knows will occur
constructive intent
: intent that is inferred to exist (as from willfulness or recklessness) in relation to an act
criminal intent
general intent
: intent to perform an illegal act without the desire for further consequences or a precise result there was a general intent to assault but not to kill
specific intent
: intent to perform an illegal act with the knowledge or purpose that particular results will or may ensue assaulted him with specific intent to kill
transferred intent
: intent attributed to a person who intends to cause another harm when the harm is accidentally inflicted on an unintended victim
: a doctrine in tort and criminal law: a wrongdoer who causes harm to a person other than the one intended may nevertheless be held to have intended the harmful result
: the purpose of a document (as a contract or will)
: the aim or goal of a person in creating a document or taking an action
the court's attempt to fulfill the donor's intent
the intent of the contracting parties implied by their language
see also original intent

More from Merriam-Webster on intent

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