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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English purpos, from Old French purposer (to propose), from Latin prō (forth) + pono, hence Latin propono, proponere, with conjugation altered based on poser.


purpose (countable and uncountable, plural purposes)

  1. An object 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.
    • 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.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Spenser to this entry?)
  5. 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.
  6. (obsolete) Instance; example.
    • (Can we date this quote by Roger L'Estrange and provide title, author's full name, and other details?), Fables of Æsop and Other Eminent Mythologists.
      'Tis a common Thing for Captious People, and Double-Dealers, to be taken in their Own Snares ; as for the Purpose in the Matter of Power.


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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 2[edit]

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.
    • 1848, Thomas Babington Macaulay, chapter 1, in The History of England from the Accession of James II:
      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.
  2. (transitive, passive) To design for some purpose. (Can we add an example for this sense?)
  3. (obsolete, intransitive) To discourse.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Edmund Spenser to this entry?)
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