English edit

Pronunciation edit

Etymology 1 edit

From Middle English purpos, from Old French purposer (to propose) (with conjugation altered based on poser), from Latin prō- (forth) + pōnere (place, put), hence Latin prōpōnō, prōpōnere.

Noun edit

purpose (countable and uncountable, plural purposes)

  1. The end for which something is done, is made or exists.
    What is the purpose of your visit?
    My purpose in coming to Egypt was simply to take it en route to the desert.
    It has been my purpose to illustrate rather than to explain.
    The exceptionally small gate-leg table served the purpose of a tea table admirably.
    The purpose of the device is to prevent the breechblock from opening accidentally should the gun be held barrel down.
    The purpose of this letter is to set the record straight.
    The purpose of this book is to study the interrelationship of government and religion.
    The device can be used for both civilian and military purposes.
    The purpose of turning off the lights overnight is to save energy.
    Synonym: end
    • 2013 June 7, Ed Pilkington, “‘Killer robots’ should be banned in advance, UN told”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 188, number 26, page 6:
      In his submission to the UN, [Christof] Heyns points to the experience of drones. Unmanned aerial vehicles were intended initially only for surveillance, and their use for offensive purposes was prohibited, yet once strategists realised their perceived advantages as a means of carrying out targeted killings, all objections were swept out of the way.
  2. Function, role.
    • 1846, William Benjamin Carpenter, Elements of Physiology: Including Physiological Anatomy, for the Use of the Medical Student, page 281:
      The purpose of the gall-bladder is obviously to permit the accumulation of bile, when it is not wanted in the intestine; and we find it most constantly present in those tribes of animals, which live upon animal food
    • 1982, Lloyd C. Olson, Virus Infections: Modern Concepts and Status, volume 49, page 2:
      As with all life forms, the sole purpose of a virus is to ensure reproduction in kind.
    • 2009, John Kricher, The Balance of Nature: Ecology's Enduring Myth, page 18:
      Is it the purpose of mosquitoes to ultimately provide calories to large birds of prey?
    • 2011, Stephen Denning, The Secret Language of Leadership, page 254:
      The purpose of the dance is to attract attention to the returning worker bee so she can share the odor of the nectar with other workers who will then follow the odor trail to the source.
    • 2020, Charles Schaper, Design of DNA, Genetic Codes, and Life Function, page 4:
      Furthermore, since the purpose of DNA is to translate to proteins, a valid solution on its origin needs to describe the mechanism by which the complementary base pairs map to amino acids.
  3. (Sense of having a) meaning for existing or doing something.
    Synonym: meaning
    • 2011 October 1, Sarah Jobe, Creating with God: The Holy Confusing Blessedness of Being Pregnant, Paraclete Press, →ISBN:
      Before being hospitalized, Thea filled her days with work that gave her life purpose. Whether it was teaching, writing, or investing in relationships, Thea was busily and actively engaged in activity that she could feel good about.
    • 2015, Donna Kauffman, Snowflake Bay, Zebra Books, →ISBN, page 338:
      This place gave him purpose, gave him joy. It was both his life and his lifeline and she was both thrilled and relieved that he'd recovered enough to be able to maintain the place.
    • 2016 January 8, Marian de Souza, Spirituality in Education in a Global, Pluralised World, Routledge, →ISBN:
      A sense of belonging helps to ground the individual by providing a particular way of being in the world which, in turn, helps individuals to make meaning of their life experiences and gives them a sense of purpose, including a sense of responsibility to the group to which one belongs.
    • 2021 August 13, O. Curtis Jackson, TEN TIMES OVER, Writers Republic LLC, →ISBN:
      He wanted her to know that she gave him purpose, gave him the will to live after he lost Kaylah. He wanted her to know that, no, the diamond wasn't precious enough to symbolize how much he cherished her breath, []
  4. Resolution; determination.
    • 1620, Giovanni Bocaccio, translated by John Florio, The Decameron, Containing an Hundred Pleaſant Nouels: Wittily Diſcourſed, Betweene Seuen Honourable Ladies, and Three Noble Gentlemen[1], Isaac Iaggard, Nouell 8, The Eighth Day:
      [] purſued his vnneighbourly purpoſe in ſuch ſort: that hee being the ſtronger perſwader, and ſhe (belike) too credulous in beleeuing or elſe ouer-feeble in reſiſting, from priuate imparlance, they fell to action; and continued their cloſe fight a long while together, vnſeene and vvithout ſuſpition, no doubt to their equall ioy and contentment.
    • 1834, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], chapter XVII, in Francesca Carrara. [], volume I, London: Richard Bentley, [], (successor to Henry Colburn), →OCLC, page 190:
      Perhaps you have heard that there was once some purpose of marriage between the Duc de Joyeuse and myself; it is of that which I have to tell.
    • 2013 September 1, Phil McNulty, BBC Sport:
      United began with more purpose in the early phase of the second half and Liverpool were grateful for Glen Johnson's crucial block from Young's goalbound shot.
    • 2013 July-August, Sarah Glaz, “Ode to Prime Numbers”, in American Scientist, volume 101, number 4:
      Some poems, echoing the purpose of early poetic treatises on scientific principles, attempt to elucidate the mathematical concepts that underlie prime numbers. Others play with primes’ cultural associations. Still others derive their structure from mathematical patterns involving primes.
  5. (obsolete) The subject of discourse; the point at issue.
    • 1598–1599 (first performance), William Shakespeare, Much Adoe about Nothing. [], quarto edition, London: [] V[alentine] S[immes] for Andrew Wise, and William Aspley, published 1600, →OCLC, [Act II, scene iii]:
      [] he was woont to ſpeake plaine, and to the purpoſe (like an honeſt man and a ſouldier) []
    • 1711 July 31 (Gregorian calendar), [Joseph Addison; Richard Steele et al.], “FRIDAY, July 20, 1711”, in The Spectator, number 122; republished in Alexander Chalmers, editor, The Spectator; a New Edition, [], volume II, New York, N.Y.: D[aniel] Appleton & Company, 1853, →OCLC, page 151:
      The speech he made was so little to the purpose, that I shall not trouble my Readers with an account of it; and I believe was not so much designed by the Knight himself to inform the Court, as to give him a figure in my eye []
      The spelling has been modernized.
    • 1770, Christof Hermann von Manstein, Memoirs of Russia, Historical, Political and Military, from the Year MDCCXXVII to MDCCXLIV, page 267:
      The duke was restless and thoughtful the whole evening, often changed the discourse; like an absent man; and abruptly, quite from the purpose; asked the marshal, "If in his military expeditions, he had ever undertaken any affair of consequence in the night."
    • 1817, Legh Richmond, A Selection from the Writings of the Reformers and Early Protestant Divines of the Church of England, page 296:
      But now, forasmuch as you have stopt up a few shards in these your last tedious commentaries, though very hardly and quite from the purpose,  []
Synonyms edit
Hyponyms edit
Derived terms edit
Translations edit
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Etymology 2 edit

From Middle English purposen, from Old French purposer (to propose).

Verb edit

purpose (third-person singular simple present purposes, present participle purposing, simple past and past participle purposed)

  1. (transitive) To have or set as one's purpose or aim; resolve to accomplish; intend; plan.
    • 1485Thomas Malory. Le Morte Darthur, Book X, Chapter xxxvi, leaf 235v
      Soo was Alysander purposed to ryde to london by the coūceille of sire Tristram to syre Launcelot /
      "So was Alisander purposed to ride to London, by the counsel of Sir Tristram, to Sir Launcelot."
    • 1761, Henry Brooke, The Tryal of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, page 139:
      Our gracious Ancestors, however, purposed Nothing, against these their ancient and implacable Enemies, save what was necessary and indispensable, with respect to their own Preservation.
    • 1849, Thomas Babington Macaulay, chapter 1, in The History of England from the Accession of James II, volume I, London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, →OCLC, page 1:
      I purpose to write the history of England from the accession of King James the Second down to a time which is within the memory of men still living.
    • 1853, John Bradford, Aubrey Townsend, The Writings of John Bradford, Banner of Truth, page 52:
      [] and because you look not to hear of your well-doing of man, I am purposed to pass it over with silence, and to give myself presently to that which is more profitable unto you;  []
    • 1883, A. E. Housman, Fragment of a Greek Tragedy:
      ERIPHYLE: He splits my skull, not in a friendly way,
      Once more: he purposes to kill me dead.
      CHORUS: I would not be reputed rash, but yet
      I doubt if all be gay within the house.
    • 2011 September 7, Joni Eareckson Tada, Glorious Intruder: God's Presence in Life's Chaos, Multnomah, →ISBN, page 123:
      Whatever you would call "suffering" in your own life, God has allowed it. Even purposed it. Don't you dare think you can't handle it! First Corinthians 10:13 promises that you can not only handle it, but glorify God in it.
  2. (intransitive) To have (an) intention, purpose, or design; to intend; to mean.
  3. (obsolete, intransitive) To discourse.
Synonyms edit
Derived terms edit
Translations edit

References edit

Middle English edit

Noun edit


  1. Alternative form of porpeys