pur·​pose | \ ˈpər-pəs How to pronounce purpose (audio) \

Definition of purpose

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : something set up as an object or end to be attained : intention
2 : a subject under discussion or an action in course of execution
on purpose
: by intent : intentionally


purposed; purposing

Definition of purpose (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to propose as an aim to oneself

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Synonyms for purpose

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

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Choose the Right Synonym for purpose


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 purpose in a Sentence

Noun Shocking as it is, more than a month after the hurricane hit, New Orleans is still, for all practical purposes, a ghost town. — Tom Piazza, Why New Orleans Matters, 2005 By the time … American aid began pouring in, to all intents and purposes the war had already been lost. — Neil L. Jamieson, Understanding Vietnam, 1993 But wartime wage and price controls prevented companies from competing for the available talent by means of increased salaries. They had to compete with fringe benefits instead, and free health insurance was tailor-made for this purpose. — John Steele Gordon, American Heritage, May - June 1992 His purpose is to realize himself, to live the fullest possible life, and he is responsible for this, like all men, regardless of how society treats him. — Shelby Steele, Wilson Quarterly, Summer 1990 The purpose of the new resort is to attract more tourists. The loans are small but they serve a good purpose. Sometimes his life seemed to lack purpose or meaning. We started work again with a renewed sense of purpose. Verb I have not purposed to misrepresent this boy in any way, for what little indignation he excited in me soon passed and left nothing behind it but compassion. — Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad, 1880 The child then explained that they had left the races on the first day, and were travelling to the next town on that road, where they purposed to spend the night. — Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop, 1841 I've been purposing to fix that thing for some time now.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The purpose of this tool is to assist employers in making (re)opening decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially to protect vulnerable workers. Maggie Fox, CNN, "CDC publishes 'decision trees' to aid pandemic re-opening decisions," 14 May 2020 The purpose was to request assistance on enforcement of Governor Northam‘s Executive Order 61. Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner, "Sheriff rejects call by Virginia governor to enforce lockdown, cites Constitution," 13 May 2020 The purpose of those hearings is to determine what various communities and interest groups want to see in the new political districts. John Wildermuth, SFChronicle.com, "Coronavirus delays California redistricting, but applicants for the job are lining up," 5 May 2020 The purpose of that was mostly to make good reality TV, but also to make sure that the final couples standing are really the most romantically dedicated to each other. Martha Sorren, refinery29.com, "Here’s How Much Of The Bachelor: Listen To Your Heart Journey Is Left," 4 May 2020 While the money people spend can help build consumption, there is an opportunity to calibrate both the consumption levels and consumption for what purpose. S Gopikrishna Warrier, Quartz India, "Decentralisation and equitable growth: Two lessons for India from the Covid-19 pandemic," 3 May 2020 The ostensible purpose of a leadership PAC is to collect money to donate to fellow legislators. Jake Bernstein, The New York Review of Books, "The Fundraising Pulpit," 8 Apr. 2020 The purpose of any cloth face covering is to prevent droplet particles from spreading to — and potentially infecting — other people. Ashley Abramson, Allure, "How to Make Sure You’re Wearing Your Mask or Cloth Face Covering Correctly," 1 May 2020 The purpose of the flight was to maintain currency and proficiency in the aircraft. Rachel Yang, EW.com, "Harrison Ford involved in another incident while piloting plane, now under investigation by FAA," 30 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The foundation has contributed $250 million to help counter the coronavirus so far, and is re-purposing units dedicated to fighting other diseases to join in the battle against the pandemic. Hailey Waller, Fortune, "Bill Gates’ coronavirus vaccine could be manufacturing at scale in a year," 26 Apr. 2020 Pence is expected to highlight the factory's re-purposing as an example of the Trump administration's response to both supply shortages and the economic fallout from the virus. Tony Cook, Indianapolis Star, "Are Pence's ties to the state benefiting Indiana's coronavirus response?," 29 Apr. 2020 Staff members within the cabinet have been re-purposed and other state cabinets have pitched in to handle claims. Matthew Glowicki, The Courier-Journal, "'Please try your call later.' Will Kentucky fix its unemployment filing headache?," 9 Apr. 2020 Estimates suggested in this Collectibles column are for general information purposes only and cannot be used as a basis for sale, insurance, or IRS purposes. oregonlive, "Century-old Japanese vase, Revolutionary War box, toy car: What are they worth?," 3 Apr. 2020 While pop’s famous fetish for touch and makeouts often results in songs that feel frenzied and chaotic, there’s frequently purpose, dignity, and even grandeur to tracks about enlightened disconnection. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "How to Party Alone," 1 Apr. 2020 The rink will be re-purposed by Madrid's regional government and military emergency units, which have been deployed across Spain over the past week to help deal with the coronavirus crisis. NBC News, "Mnuchin, Schumer optimistic on coronavirus stimulus package, say deal is close," 25 Mar. 2020 The integralists know what kind of man men should strive to be, what kind of woman women deserve to be, what purpose their life should be devoted to, and what rules and emotions should govern the relations of one human with another. Tanner Greer, National Review, "Learning the Wrong Lessons from Reform Conservatism," 17 Mar. 2020 Randall produces several dozen designs, but the Model 3, which is billed as its heavy-duty all purpose outdoor knife, is not only the first model, but the most popular. David E. Petzal, Field & Stream, "The Five Best Hunting Knives Ever Made," 23 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'purpose.' 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 purpose


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for purpose

Noun and Verb

Middle English purpos, from Anglo-French, from purposer to intend, propose, from Latin proponere (perfect indicative proposui) to propose — more at propound

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Time Traveler for purpose

Time Traveler

The first known use of purpose was in the 14th century

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Statistics for purpose

Last Updated

21 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Purpose.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/purpose. Accessed 3 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for purpose


How to pronounce purpose (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of purpose

: the reason why something is done or used : the aim or intention of something
: the feeling of being determined to do or achieve something
: the aim or goal of a person : what a person is trying to do, become, etc.


pur·​pose | \ ˈpər-pəs How to pronounce purpose (audio) \

Kids Definition of purpose

: something set up as a goal to be achieved : intention, aim “… my purpose in writing this brief note is to suggest that we meet.”— E. B. White, Stuart Little
on purpose


pur·​pose | \ ˈpər-pəs How to pronounce purpose (audio) \

Legal Definition of purpose

: an objective, effect, or result aimed at or attained specifically : the business activity in which a corporation is chartered to engage

Other Words from purpose

purposeful \ -​fəl How to pronounce purposeful (audio) \ adjective
purposefully adverb
purposefulness noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on purpose

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for purpose

Spanish Central: Translation of purpose

Nglish: Translation of purpose for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of purpose for Arabic Speakers

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