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 And at the end of the day, the purpose of the show isn't to educate, but rather to entertain. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Is The Crown Accurate? The Answer Is Complicated," 23 Nov. 2019 Vinay Prasad, Oregon Health & Science University Boone also seemed uncertain about the purpose of the program. Charles Piller, Science | AAAS, "Investigation reveals widespread double dipping in NIH program to pay off school debt," 21 Nov. 2019 But what does this matter, except for purposes of quarrels about trivia? Wired, "The Pride and Prejudice of Online Fan Culture," 19 Nov. 2019 The blazes have reached the outer suburbs of Sydney, a city of over 5m people (the police are investigating whether some of the fires that threatened it were lit on purpose). The Economist, "Unprecedented Australian bushfires stoke a debate about climate change," 16 Nov. 2019 For the purposes of this initial question then, the justices take at face value the parents’ argument that a rogue agent violated their child’s Fourth Amendment constitutional right to be free from unreasonable governmental search and seizure. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "Supreme Court weighs immunity for officer accused of cross-border excessive force," 13 Nov. 2019 At the time, authorities began investigating whether the tree section was dislodged on purpose. CBS News, "Ohio teens charged with murder of photographer after pushing log off cliff," 8 Nov. 2019 But Twitter is a platform consecrated to the eternal pie fight—to the purposes of protest, complaint, and particularly punishment—where nobody is special and nobody is invulnerable. Tom Junod, The Atlantic, "What Would Mister Rogers Do?," 7 Nov. 2019 Formed in 2017, ECANA brings together doctors, patients, survivors, community advocates, and professional leaders with the purpose of improving the lives of black women affected by endometrial cancer. Erika Stallings, SELF, "Why Are Uterine Cancer Rates Rising So Drastically in Black Women?," 6 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Jeremy Irons, probably best known as the voice of Scar in the original Lion King plays an eccentric character who's purposed hasn't been revealed but sure to be impactful. Sean Wellington, Essence, "5 Reasons You Should Be Watching 'Watchmen'," 24 Nov. 2019 Estimates suggested in this Collectibles column are for general information purposes only and cannot be used as a basis for sale, insurance, or IRS purposes. oregonlive, "Japanese porcelain, trench art, cranberry glass: How much are these antiques worth?," 2 Oct. 2019 But if the Warriors lose their first five games at Chase, the mindfulness room will be quietly re-purposed for hot-dog-bun storage. Scott Ostler, SFChronicle.com, "Warriors’ Chase Center sancturary: A place to heal the head and the gut," 28 Sep. 2019 Workers added dressing rooms and sound booths and sales counters and bookshelves were re-purposed. William Thornton | Wthornton@al.com, al, "How some Birmingham area malls are planning for the future," 25 Sep. 2019 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

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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Statistics for purpose

Last Updated

4 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Purpose.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/purpose?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=p&file=purpos01. Accessed 9 December 2019.

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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

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