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pur·​pose ˈpər-pəs How to pronounce purpose (audio)
: something set up as an object or end to be attained : intention
: a subject under discussion or an action in course of execution


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purposed; purposing

transitive verb

: to propose as an aim to oneself
on purpose
: by intent : intentionally
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

Example Sentences

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Coming from what many would consider opposite ends of the cultural spectrum, the two multimedia enterprises share a common purpose — to reveal the personal reality obscured by a public narrative too often manipulated by others for fun and profit. Los Angeles Times, 27 Jan. 2023 But they are also thought to have a defensive purpose. Stefano Pitrelli, Washington Post, 26 Jan. 2023 Others come to heal from grief, or look for a new purpose. Jacqui Palumbo, CNN, 26 Jan. 2023 How many in-person meetings lacked a clear purpose? Mark Murphy, Forbes, 25 Jan. 2023 However, our testers were stymied by a confusing storage compartment that didn't seem to have a distinct purpose. Stefanie Waldek, Travel + Leisure, 25 Jan. 2023 The high-low design of this doormat has a maze-like visual that also serves a purpose. Kylee Mcguigan, Popular Mechanics, 24 Jan. 2023 Disinformation is a knowing lie, usually intended to achieve a political purpose. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 23 Jan. 2023 In his order, US District Judge Donald Middlebrooks said this week that Trump's case should never have been brought and that it was intended for a political purpose. Taylor Wilson, USA TODAY, 21 Jan. 2023
For now, Wooten can only reminisce about the stability and purpose her profession once provided. Lautaro Grinspan, ajc, 23 Dec. 2022 New York has resorted to drastic measures to house the migrants, going so far as to re-purpose some hotels. Anders Hagstrom, Fox News, 14 Nov. 2022 Further, about 80% of the materials processed by Rumpke are sold to companies in the Midwest who re-purpose them into consumer goods. Courtney Astolfi, cleveland, 18 June 2022 At the opposite end of the spectrum is the financial industry, where dollars—not purpose—still appear to be king. Lance Lambert, Fortune, 24 May 2022 PĀPR Cosmetics’ multi-purpose Everything Stick can be used on lips, elbows, eyes and anywhere else on the body that could use hydration. Danielle Directo-meston, The Hollywood Reporter, 24 Mar. 2022 Steve has also hinted that Jordan likely plans to purpose someday. Dory Jackson, PEOPLE.com, 4 Mar. 2022 Balance Between Personal And Professional Values Alignment to purpose and values has been important, but now is more of a criterion for career moves. Expert Panel®, Forbes, 18 Oct. 2021 Measures include elevating the companies purpose, giving employees incentives for staying and flexibility, to name a few. Sheryl Estrada, Fortune, 16 Nov. 2021 See More

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use


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


14th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near purpose

Cite this Entry

“Purpose.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/purpose. Accessed 9 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


: something set up as an end to be attained
: an object or result achieved
worked to little purpose

Legal Definition


pur·​pose ˈpər-pəs How to pronounce purpose (audio)
: an objective, effect, or result aimed at or attained
specifically : the business activity in which a corporation is chartered to engage
purposeful adjective
purposefully adverb
purposefulness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on purpose

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