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 The health care company went public in January by merging with a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, set up by popular venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya. Julia Horowitz, CNN, 9 June 2021 Refill shops tend to be small, independent stores that sell non-packaged personal-care items, such as shampoo, body wash and hand soap, as well as household products, such as laundry detergent and all-purpose cleaner. Washington Post, 8 June 2021 That hasn’t been the case at times in meme stocks and a handful of other bets over the past year, like some special-purpose acquisition companies, analysts said. Gunjan Banerji, WSJ, 8 June 2021 The dough here is made in a food processor and combines whole-wheat and all-purpose flour with plenty of butter. BostonGlobe.com, 8 June 2021 The shares, issued through a special purpose acquisition vehicle run by Tishman Speyer Properties, rose 4% on the first day of trading. Noah Kirsch, Forbes, 7 June 2021 On Tuesday, online finance company SoFi Technologies gained more than 12% on its first day of trading after completing a merger with a special purpose acquisition company run by venture capital investor Chamath Palihapitiya. Benzinga, Detroit Free Press, 6 June 2021 Exactly 10 years ago, on June 6, 2011, Twitch launched out of Justin.tv, a sort of general-purpose video livestreaming site Kan had founded four years before. Cecilia D'anastasio, Wired, 6 June 2021 Fertilize nonsucculent potted plants with an all-purpose organic fertilizer (liquid indoors, liquid or granular outdoors), following label directions. Nan Sterman, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5 June 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb McCaul and Rubio argue SMIC can re-purpose as much as nearly 95% of available, older-generation tools. Bloomberg.com, 22 Dec. 2020 Congressional Democrats sharply criticized a Defense Department decision to re-purpose a $1 billion coronavirus fund into an economic stimulus for defense contractors, a change that the lawmakers say violated congressional intent. Washington Post, 22 Sep. 2020 Giving mourners a task grants them purpose and a sense of control. Katy Kelleher, Longreads, 10 Aug. 2020 The foundation has contributed $250 million to help counter the coronavirus so far, and is re-purposing units dedicated to fighting other diseases to join in the battle against the pandemic. Hailey Waller, Fortune, 26 Apr. 2020 Pence is expected to highlight the factory's re-purposing as an example of the Trump administration's response to both supply shortages and the economic fallout from the virus. Tony Cook, Indianapolis Star, 29 Apr. 2020 Staff members within the cabinet have been re-purposed and other state cabinets have pitched in to handle claims. Matthew Glowicki, The Courier-Journal, 9 Apr. 2020 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, 3 Apr. 2020 While pop’s famous fetish for touch and makeouts often results in songs that feel frenzied and chaotic, there’s frequently purpose, dignity, and even grandeur to tracks about enlightened disconnection. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, 1 Apr. 2020

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

11 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Purpose.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/purpose. Accessed 20 Jun. 2021.

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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 purpose (audio) \ adjective
purposefully adverb
purposefulness noun


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