Etymology 1Edit

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.


purpose (countable and uncountable, plural purposes)

  1. An objective to be reached; a target; an aim; a goal.
    • 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. A result that is desired; an intention.
  3. The act of intending to do something; resolution; determination.
    • 1620, Giovanni Bocaccio, John Florio, transl., 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, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Francesca Carrara, volume 1, 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, Phil McNulty, "[2]", BBC Sport, 1 September 2013:
      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.
  4. The subject of discourse; the point at issue.
  5. (obsolete) conversation
  6. The reason for which something is done, or the reason it is done in a particular way.
    The purpose of turning off the lights overnight is to save energy.
  7. (obsolete) Instance; example.
Derived termsEdit
Related termsEdit
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Etymology 2Edit

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


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

  1. (transitive) To have set as one's purpose; resolve to accomplish; intend; plan.
  2. (transitive, passive) To design for some purpose. (Can we add an example for this sense?)
  3. (obsolete, intransitive) To discourse.
Derived termsEdit


Middle EnglishEdit



  1. Alternative form of porpeys