From purpose +‎ -ive. Compare purpositive.



purposive (comparative more purposive, superlative most purposive)

  1. Serving a particular purpose; adapted to a given purpose, especially through natural evolution. [from 19th c.]
    • 1918, Algernon Blackwood, The Garden of Survival, London: Macmillan, Chapter 9, p. 142,[1]
      Irresistably it came to me again that beauty, far from being wasted, was purposive, that this purpose was of a redeeming kind, and that some one who was pleased co-operated with it for my personal benefit.
  2. Done or performed with a conscious purpose or intent. [from 19th c.]
    Synonyms: deliberate, intentional, purposeful
    • 1949, George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, London: Secker & Warburg, “Appendix: The Principles of Newspeak,”[2]
      It would have been quite impossible to use the A vocabulary for literary purposes or for political or philosophical discussion. It was intended only to express simple, purposive thoughts, usually involving concrete objects or physical actions.
    • 2002, Colin Jones, The Great Nation, Penguin 2003, p. 191:
      Other ecclesiastics [...] were similarly accepting of a space for purposive and beneficent human action and betterment in a disenchanted world.
  3. (psychology) Pertaining to purpose, as reflected in behaviour or mental activity. [from 19th c.]
    • 1920, D. H. Lawrence, Women in Love, London: Martin Secker, 1921, Chapter 29, p. 430,[3]
      Ursula could not believe the air in her nostrils. It seemed conscious, malevolent, purposive in its intense murderous coldness.
    • 1964, C. S. Lewis, The Discarded Image, Cambridge University Press, Chapter 5, p. 93,[4]
      The question at once arises whether medieval thinkers really believed that what we now call inanimate objects were sentient and purposive.
  4. Pertaining to or demonstrating purpose. [from 19th c.]
    • 1971, Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, Folio Society 2012, p. 78:
      The world was generally agreed to be a purposive one, responsive to the wishes of its Creator […].
  5. Possessed of a firm purpose. [from 20th c.]
    Synonyms: determined, resolute
    • 1993, Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy, Boston: Little, Brown, Part One, 1.15, p. 45,[5]
      Whenever she opened a scientific book and saw whole paragraphs of incomprehensible words and symbols, she felt a sense of wonder at the great territories of learning that lay beyond her—the sum of so many noble and purposive attempts to make objective sense of the world.
  6. (grammar) Of a clause or conjunction: expressing purpose. [from 20th c.]
    • 2004, Olga Fischer et al., The Syntax of Early English, Cambridge University Press, Chapter 7, p. 212,
      Many scholars suggest that [] the increase in the use of the to-infinitive in Middle English took place at the expense of the bare infinitive (i.e. an infinitive without the marker to). [] due to the loss of verbal inflections, it became difficult to distinguish the infinitival form from other verbal forms. As a result [] to began to function as a mere marker of the infinitive, losing its original ‘purposive’ sense []

Usage notesEdit

  • Objects: behavior, action, interpretation, sample, etc.

Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit