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



    BrE BrE//ˈpɜːpəs//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈpɜːrpəs//
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  1. 1  [countable] the intention, aim or function of something; the thing that something is supposed to achieve Our 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. Synonymspurposeaim 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…. Patterns with the purpose/​aim/​intention/​idea of doing something somebody’s intention/​plan to do something to have a(n) purpose/​aim/​intention/​plan/​point to achieve/​fulfil a(n) purpose/​aim
  2. 2  purposes [plural] what is needed in a particular situation These gifts count as income for tax purposes. For the purposes of this study, the three groups have been combined.
  3. 3  [countable, uncountable] meaning that is important and valuable to you Volunteer work gives her life (a sense of) purpose.
  4. 4[uncountable] the ability to plan something and work successfully to achieve it synonym determination He has enormous confidence and strength of purpose.
  5. see also cross purposes
    Word OriginMiddle English: from Old French porpos, from the verb porposer, variant of proposer, from Latin proponere ‘set forth’ (from pro- ‘forward’ + ponere ‘put’).Extra examples Encouraged by her example, they all set to work with a fresh sense of purpose. For comparative purposes, the populations of three other cities are also shown. He slammed the door on purpose. I finally realized that we were talking at cross purposes. I put the chair there for a purpose. Let’s assume he knows, for the purposes of our argument. Nominally she is the secretary, but for all practical purposes she runs the place. She saw being a doctor as her purpose in life. The cycling events will take place in a purpose-built 20 000-seater stadium. The drug can be sold for medicinal purposes only. The old mill has been put to good purpose. The plan achieved its primary purpose, if nothing else. The same information can be put to many purposes The school was founded with the express purpose of teaching deaf children to speak. These bars serve no useful purpose. They had great confidence and strength of purpose. You will need to have the vehicle valued for insurance purposes. a general-purpose cleaning fluid a group of individuals sharing a common purpose a measure introduced for the purpose of protecting the interests of investors a toy with the dual purpose of entertaining and developing memory skills the view that art should serve a social purpose For the purposes of this study, the three groups have been combined. He did not want anything to distract him from his purpose. He has enormous confidence and strength of purpose. Teachers need to give a purpose to the activities and assignments they give to students. The experiments serve no useful purpose. The main purpose of the campaign is to raise money. Volunteer work gives her life a sense of purpose.Idioms (of an institution, a system, a thing, etc.) suitable for the function or purpose that it was designed for The minister argued that the education system wasn’t fit for purpose. The new executive flats are fully equipped and fit for purpose. I returned the goods as they weren’t fit for purpose.
    for (all) practical purposes
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    used when you are stating what the reality of a situation is There's still another ten minutes of the game to go, but for practical purposes it's already over.
     not by accident; deliberately He did it on purpose, knowing it would annoy her.
    to all intents and purposes (British English) (North American English for all intents and purposes)
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    in the effects that something has, if not in reality; almost completely By 1981 the docks had, to all intents and purposes, closed. The two items are, to all intents and purposes, identical.
    (formal) with little/no useful effect or result The government had spent a lot on education but to little or no purpose.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: purpose