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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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
Portfolio careerists: As the predominant group (comprising 39% of Gen Z freelancers), portfolio careerists leverage their specialized skills across diverse clients and sectors, seeking both autonomy and deeper purpose in their work. Bykelly Monahan, Fortune, 6 June 2024 Since then, Gabby’s parents have found purpose and healing by using the enormous amount of publicity generated by their daughter’s case to try to prevent similar tragedies from happening to other families. Christine Pelisek, Peoplemag, 6 June 2024 Invented more than half a century ago by famed Florida Keys fly fishing guide Jimmy Albright, the knot’s purpose was to join two pieces of line with different diameters. Joe Cermele, Outdoor Life, 6 June 2024 Their purpose, after all, is to prevent the public from electing their first-choice candidate if that person has already held office for the maximum time permitted. Amanda Taub, New York Times, 6 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for purpose 

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

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 13 Jun. 2024.

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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