purpose

noun
pur·​pose | \ˈpər-pəs \

Definition of purpose 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : something set up as an object or end to be attained : intention

b : resolution, determination

2 : a subject under discussion or an action in course of execution

on purpose

: by intent : intentionally

purpose

verb
purposed; purposing

Definition of purpose (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to propose as an aim to oneself

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for purpose

Synonyms: Noun

aim, ambition, aspiration, bourne (also bourn), design, dream, end, goal, idea, ideal, intent, intention, mark, meaning, object, objective, plan, point, pretension, target, thing

Synonyms: Verb

aim, allow [chiefly Southern & Midland], aspire, calculate, contemplate, design, go [chiefly Southern & Midland], intend, look, mean, meditate, plan, propose, purport

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for purpose

Noun

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The people of our region are joined in common purpose. Elias Meseret, The Seattle Times, "Ethiopia, Eritrea restore diplomatic relations, phone calls," 9 July 2018 The letter also noted exceptions for humanitarian purposes. NBC News, "U.S. refuses European requests for exemptions from its new sanctions on Iran," 14 July 2018 Until the Elgin Police Department opened its new headquarters on Douglas Avenue in 1996, part of the building was being used for law enforcement purposes, Cuming said. Mike Danahey, Elgin Courier-News, "Real estate manager has bought 14 buildings in Elgin in 4 years — he's 'taking a bet' on the city," 13 July 2018 The bill would consider those costs as medical expenses for tax purposes, enabling people to use tax-advantaged health-savings accounts and flexible spending accounts to pay for them. Richard Rubin, WSJ, "House Panel Passes Tax Break for Gym Memberships, Exercise Classes," 12 July 2018 Midazolam maker Alvogen of New Jersey filed a lawsuit in Nevada state court accusing Nevada of illegally securing midazolam for unapproved purposes. Ken Ritter And Michelle L. Price, Time, "Nevada Delays Its First Execution in 12 Years After a Drug Company Objects," 12 July 2018 Movement is much more highly controlled, for security purposes. Samantha Melamed, Philly.com, "SCI Phoenix, Pennsylvania's costliest prison, finally opens," 11 July 2018 The program’s purpose is to eventually ensure that no one in the city of 300,000 people lives in poverty. Lukas Mikelionis, Fox News, "California's 'foreclosure capital' to give away $500 a month to residents in experimental welfare program," 10 July 2018 In the past, both Pepsi-Cola and FBC have used the sign for promotional purposes, according to residents. Thr Staff, The Hollywood Reporter, "When Paramount's 75-Foot Hollywood Sign Stunt Pushed Locals Too Far," 5 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Lambert said Life Remodeled works at the Durfee Innovation Society, which was re-purposed from the old Durfee Elementary School building. Caroline Blackmon, Detroit Free Press, "Free outdoor yoga at Cobo Center benefits charity," 6 July 2018 Those could include re-purposing 18 certified law enforcement officers already hired by the district or paying cops overtime pay. Colleen Wright, miamiherald, "With little time and cash, Broward to hire armed guards instead of police at schools," 27 June 2018 His supporters — many of whom came with their families — drank beer and ate bar snacks in the large Union Jack’s pub, where pool tables were re-purposed to hold cheese plates. Ovetta Wiggins, Washington Post, "As Democrats stump, Hogan kicks off reelection campaign," 9 June 2018 Features occasionally look familiar, as if plucked from collective consciousness and re-purposed as portals to an individual soul. Leah Ollman, latimes.com, "Like song sampling as painting: Nathaniel Mary Quinn's puzzle-like portraits of personhood," 6 June 2018 Today this set of sturdy structures, built in the early years of the last century, is being re-purposed and renamed Highland Forge. Jacques Kelly, baltimoresun.com, "Jacques Kelly: Constructing a new future from Haven Street's industrial past," 26 May 2018 However, technology that was originally purposed to be efficient and useful, quickly became menacing and dangerous once in the hands of fraudulent telemarketers. Melissa Ramsey, Houston Chronicle, "BBB on Seniors: Be alert to robocalls, telemarketing scams," 15 June 2018 That’s different from Amazon, which because of lines of sight and other issues needs to purpose-build new Amazon Go stores. Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY, "No more grocery checkout lines: Microsoft may rival Amazon with tech that cuts out the cashier," 14 June 2018 White people invented this word, and Black people culturally re-purposed it as a weapon to negate the power of white folks’ view of Blackness. Stereo Williams, Billboard, "Kendrick Lamar, Black Language and What White Fans Don't Get About the 'N-Word'," 24 May 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of purpose

Noun

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

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for purpose

Noun

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

Verb

see purpose entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about purpose

Statistics for purpose

Last Updated

6 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for purpose

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for purpose

purpose

noun

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.

purpose

noun
pur·​pose | \ˈpər-pəs \

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

purpose

noun
pur·​pose | \ˈpər-pəs \

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 \ adjective
purposefully adverb
purposefulness noun

Keep scrolling for more

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).

WORD OF THE DAY

a trusted follower

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!