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 Well, it's introduced here for a very limited purpose … to show that the facts and the pattern in the Pacaccio case in Illinois are similar to the California cases. CBS News, "The Hollywood Ripper: How "48 Hours" helped crack the case of convicted serial killer Michael Gargiulo," 14 Sep. 2019 Large plants in full bloom are available at area nurseries for just such a purpose. Calvin Finch, ExpressNews.com, "Fall blooms to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your San Antonio garden," 13 Sep. 2019 Tying whatever shows emerge from that space to ESPNews at least at launch would once again give the channel a clear purpose. Jacob Feldman, SI.com, "ESPNews Odds-on Favorite to Become ESPN’s Home for Gambling Content," 12 Sep. 2019 For Woodruff, success is rooted in finding proficiency and a purpose within a process he's been captivated by since childhood. Patricia Meschino, Billboard, "Stick Figure Premieres Trippy, Mysterious 'All For You' Video," 12 Sep. 2019 Of course, the silk binding may serve a more straight forward purpose. Jason Bittel, National Geographic, "How spider silk is one of the most versatile materials on Earth," 12 Sep. 2019 While some guardians serve other school functions, Broward has hired staff to solely serve this purpose. Scott Travis, sun-sentinel.com, "Broward Schools detail the security upgrades since Parkland shooting," 11 Sep. 2019 This fall, political and social issues are the focus of several Bay Area exhibits — art with a conscience, with a purpose. Robert Taylor, The Mercury News, "New edgier exhibits find Bay Area museums confronting the world," 9 Sep. 2019 Those viewing numbers alone would suggest that fashion weeks still serve a clear purpose: to grab the attention of as many people as possible. Marc Bain, Quartzy, "Do fashion weeks still have a purpose?," 7 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Administration officials have discussed re-purposing the site into a homeless shelter. Tracy Jan, Washington Post, "HUD Secretary Ben Carson and top Trump officials to visit California as White House ramps up homeless push," 13 Sep. 2019 The system considered re-purposing some teaching positions as behavioral specialists, but wanted the task force to consider whether the data supported that action. Catalina Righter, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, "With behavior referrals on rise in Carroll elementary schools, task force presents findings, recommendations," 5 Sep. 2019 The cover was re-purposed six other times in Sports Illustrated history, including as part of a collage (twice) and four times as the lead image -- most recently on the Aug. 11, 2014 issue celebrating 60 years. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Sixty five years ago, Sports Illustrated produced its first issue with a photo of Milwaukee on the cover," 16 Aug. 2019 Stuebe said the senior center has been re-purposed several times throughout the years. Kaila Contreras, Houston Chronicle, "Humble awaiting $6.3 in FEMA funds to relocate fire station, rebuild senior center," 14 Aug. 2019 The hooks that hang on the back of doors can be reused, as can favorite picture frames, and baskets can be re-purposed as storage or to hold rolled up towels. Sonja Haller, USA TODAY, "Jill Martin is your guide to dorm room awesomeness: 'You're making this your little house'," 13 Aug. 2019 All of the bricks from the old fireplace were re-purposed for other projects on the property. Pam Kragen, San Diego Union-Tribune, "New family carries on legacy of 99-year-old Vista farm," 21 July 2019 The inn was purposed for road-weary travelers who needed a good night's sleep and some food. Jeremy Roth And Jamie K. White, CNN, "Chocolate Chip Cookie Day and the accidental origin of this American staple," 4 Aug. 2019 The store’s merchandise will include secondhand, vintage and re-purposed clothing, the 29-year-old Bolling said. Austin Fuller, orlandosentinel.com, "Clothing resale store opening at Orlando International Premium Outlets," 30 July 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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Statistics for purpose

Last Updated

6 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for purpose

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

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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

Comments on purpose

What made you want to look up purpose? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to engage in dissolute behavior

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