Definition of purpose noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



; ˈpɜːrpəs
1 [countable] the intention, aim or function of something; the thing that something is supposed to achieveOur campaign's main purpose is to raise money.The purpose of the book is to provide a complete guide to the university.A meeting was called for the purpose of appointing a new treasurer.The experiments serve no useful purpose(= are not useful).The building is used for religious purposes.2 purposes [plural] what is needed in a particular situationThese gifts count as income for tax purposes.For the purposes of this study, the three groups have been combined.3 [countable, uncountable] meaning that is important and valuable to youVolunteer work gives her life (a sense of) purpose.4 [uncountable] the ability to plan something and work successfully to achieve it
He has enormous confidence and strength of purpose.
see also cross purposes

on purpose

not by accident; deliberately
He did it on purpose, knowing it would annoy her.

to little/no purpose

(formal) with little/no useful effect or resultThe government had spent a lot on education but to little or no purpose.
more at to all intents and purposes at intent n., for (all) practical purposes at practical adjective
Usage noteUsage note: purposeaim intention plan point ideaThese are all words for talking about what somebody/something intends to do or achieve.purpose what something is supposed to achieve; what somebody is trying to achieve:Our campaign's main purpose is to raise money.aim what somebody is trying to achieve; what something is supposed to achieve:She went to London with the aim of finding a job. Our main aim is to increase sales in Europe.purpose or aim?Your purpose for doing something is your reason for doing it; your aim is what you want to achieve. Aim can suggest that you are only trying to achieve something; purpose gives a stronger sense of achievement being certain. Aim can be somebody's aim or the aim of something. Purpose is more usually the purpose of something: you can talk about somebody's purpose but that is more formal.intention what you intend to do:I have no intention of going to the wedding. She's full of good intentions but they rarely work out.plan what you intend to do or achieve:There are no plans to build new offices.intention or plan?Your intentions are what you want to do, especially in the near future; your plans are what you have decided or arranged to do, often, but not always, in the longer term.point (rather informal) the purpose or aim of something:What's the point of all this violence? The point of the lesson is to compare the two countries.idea (rather informal) the purpose of something; somebody's aim:The whole idea of going was so that we could meet her new boyfriend. What's the idea behind this?point or idea?Point is a more negative word than idea. If you say What's the point…? you are suggesting that there is no point; if you say What's the idea…? you are genuinely asking a question. Point, but not idea, is used to talk about things you feel annoyed or unhappy about:There's no idea in… I don't see the idea of….with the purpose/aim/intention/idea of doing somethingsomebody's intention/plan to do somethingto have a(n) purpose/aim/intention/plan/pointto achieve/fulfil a(n) purpose/aim