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

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

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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


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.


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

More than 20 new and returning restaurants will bring their best recipes with the purpose of dethroning last year’s winner, Casanova Fish Tacos. San Diego Union-Tribune, "The Dish: Chef’s Fest, football specials top this week’s food events," 5 Sep. 2019 Sunday traffic on State Road A1A through Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach was with a purpose other than vacationing. Kevin Spear, orlandosentinel.com, "Hurricane Dorian wrecks Labor Day break at Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral," 1 Sep. 2019 His overall desire is to maybe work with the purpose of living independently. Madeline Buckley, chicagotribune.com, "11-year-old ‘Yummy’ Sandifer was on the run for killing a teenage girl. Then he was killed by his own gang in a Chicago story that shocked the nation 25 years ago.," 29 Aug. 2019 Bruce Arena stalks the perimeter of the Revolution training field, often checking the timer in his left hand and the watch on his left wrist, making sure this practice moves with purpose and pace. Tara Sullivan, BostonGlobe.com, "Boston’s winning ways drew Bruce Arena, and he has put the Revolution in the conversation," 29 Aug. 2019 But self-reflection only helps if it is done with a real purpose in mind, and that means thinking strategically about what is most important for the leader and the organization. Kellogg Insight, Quartz at Work, "Four ways to become a more self-aware leader," 28 Aug. 2019 Just running my routes deliberately with more purpose. Eric Branch, SFChronicle.com, "For 49ers’ Pettis, coach’s great expectations come with public critiques," 26 Aug. 2019 The law that should have helped Sharp but was instead violated by Oregon social services—the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)—was passed in 1978 with the intended purpose of putting an end to the cultural genocide of Native people. Nick Martin, The New Republic, "Indian Country Fights to Protect Its Children and Preserve Its Sovereignty," 23 Aug. 2019 The bombing had filled him, and through him Greenpeace, with even more defiant purpose. The Economist, "Obituary: Steve Sawyer died on July 31st," 22 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 Kinchla is also the developer behind re-purposing the former United Pentecostal Church near downtown into five upscale townhomes, called Samsara, complete with their own elevators and a view of the Orlando skyline. Caroline Glenn, orlandosentinel.com, "After months on 5-foot-tall girders, historic Lake Eola home finally settles on its foundation," 26 July 2019 Monkey Bread: Pizza dough gets re-purposed on the dessert menu with the help of some sugar, fleur de sel, stone fruit, caramel dipping sauce and whipped cream. Justin Phillips, SFChronicle.com, "Square Pie Guys brings Detroit-style pizza to Mission Street," 9 July 2019 The most visible and recent schaden-fest characteristic involves cackling about Woodstock 50, which purposes to commemorate the golden anniversary of the groundbreaking festival. Mara Reinstein, Billboard, "Schaden-Fest: Why Did We Start Rooting For Music Festivals to Crash and Burn?," 4 June 2019 Gates will be painted with colors representing land, water and sun, and recycled O.C. Fair banners will be re-purposed as seat cushions at the Plaza Pacifica area. Priscella Vega, latimes.com, "O.C. Fair applies finishing touches to open ‘Acres of Fun’ in Costa Mesa," 7 July 2019 Still under federal ownership, the building was saved when a proposal to turn it into a federal courthouse was accepted in 1972, with the former exhibit building behind it re-purposed as a federal training center. Paula Allen, ExpressNews.com, "Preservation progress is slow for ‘controversial’ film at San Antonio’s HemisFair ’68," 6 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

11 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for purpose

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

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More Definitions for purpose



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).


concealment of treason or felony

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