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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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 Here’s how to increase your fit: Get clear on purpose. Tracy Brower, Forbes, 3 Oct. 2021 The department later deems no apparent criminal intent, but can’t say definitively whether the files were deleted on purpose. Everton Bailey Jr., Dallas News, 1 Oct. 2021 One report was on a person who was arrested and accused of flying a drone and identified on social media as a journalist, but the report had no information on the purpose of the drone footage, according to the report. oregonlive, 1 Oct. 2021 Certainly there is a point at which pain on purpose can become harmful and even dangerous, a risk that further necessitates open and curious conversation about the role of pain in our daily lives. Leigh Cowart, Wired, 30 Sep. 2021 The Houston Republican, the chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee, did not have answers — but that was on purpose. Cayla Harris, San Antonio Express-News, 30 Sep. 2021 Investigators had long suspected the homebuilt plane was piloted by Joseph Radford of Glendale and crashed in the canyon in March 2011, likely on purpose, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report. Felicia Fonseca, The Arizona Republic, 18 Sep. 2021 Investigators had long suspected the homebuilt plane was piloted by Joseph Radford of Glendale, Arizona, and crashed in the canyon in March 2011, likely on purpose, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report. CBS News, 16 Sep. 2021 Investigators had long suspected the homebuilt plane was piloted by Joseph Radford of Glendale, Arizona, and crashed in the canyon in March 2011, likely on purpose, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report. NBC News, 16 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Our eco-anxiety has led us to re-purpose, resell and recycle our wardrobes in an effort to minimise our impact on the planet. Bree Grant, refinery29.com, 30 Sep. 2021 Conversely, helping people connect to purpose increases retention, engagement, profitability, and well-being. Alain Hunkins, Forbes, 16 Sep. 2021 After serving as a Marine in Iraq's Anbar province, Losekamp turned to sustainable farming to maintain the level of challenge and purpose his military service gave him. Sarah Michels, The Enquirer, 14 Aug. 2021 With passion and purpose your life has deep meaning. Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive, 12 July 2021 Yemiscigil said one channel through which sports and exercise may instill purpose is by encouraging people to challenge themselves. Washington Post, 12 Feb. 2021 McCaul and Rubio argue SMIC can re-purpose as much as nearly 95% of available, older-generation tools. Bloomberg.com, 22 Dec. 2020 Congressional Democrats sharply criticized a Defense Department decision to re-purpose a $1 billion coronavirus fund into an economic stimulus for defense contractors, a change that the lawmakers say violated congressional intent. Washington Post, 22 Sep. 2020 Giving mourners a task grants them purpose and a sense of control. Katy Kelleher, Longreads, 10 Aug. 2020

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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Dictionary Entries Near purpose




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Statistics for purpose

Last Updated

9 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Purpose.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/purpose. Accessed 18 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for purpose



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 purpose (audio) \ adjective
purposefully adverb
purposefulness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on purpose

Nglish: Translation of purpose for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of purpose for Arabic Speakers


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