Purposely vs. Purposefully: Difference And Examples

Some words in English seem like they may be related or have the same meaning when, in fact, they are entirely different. This is the case for “purposely” and “purposefully,” which English writers commonly confuse.

What Does “Purposely” Mean?

Purposely” is an adverb that means “done deliberately.” It is normally used to describe how planned out an action was. For instance: 

  • I purposely made sure that the cupcakes were frosted yesterday so they would be ready to eat this morning. 
  • She purposely got angry, so the people around her would know her mood. 

What Does “Purposefully” Mean? 

“Purposefully” is an adverb that means “having intention, thought, or special meaning.” It is usually used to show that an action was done with deliberate and special attention. For instance: 

  • purposefully cleaned the kitchen because I knew you would love it! 
  • He purposefully bought a heartfelt gift for his girlfriend.

Where Do “Purposely” And “Purposefully” Originate? 

According to most sources, both words originated from the Latin term “proponere,” which means “to propose.” In most uses, “purpose” acts as a noun. However, it rarely can take the form of a verb. 

Other Forms Of “Purposely” And “Purposefully”

“Purposely” and “purposefully” can also take the adjectival forms of “purpose” and “Purposeful.” These forms usually mean “completing a purpose or plan.” For instance:

  • He was a very purposeful person who carefully put thought into everything. 
  • She completed her duties with great purpose. 

If you want to talk about the opposite of being “purposeful,” you can use the antonym “purposeless.” As an antonym, “purposeless” means “to be meaningless and aimless.” For example:

  • He was purposeless in life, constantly getting thrown off his path and goals. 
  • Her actions were random and purposeless. 

You can also hyphenate “purpose” to form specialized phrases. For example: 

  • Special-purpose
  • All-purpose
  • Purpose-made
  • Dual-purpose
  • Multipurpose

Purpose” in Idioms

“Purpose” can also be used as an adverbial phrase in many idioms. For instance: 

  • For all practical purposes
  • For all intents and purposes 
  • On purpose

Related Phrases

In addition to its Latin origin, you may see a few other words associated with “purpose.” First, the French expression “a propos” (to the purpose) is often associated. “Ad hoc,” which originated in Latin, is also associated with the word “purpose.”

Examples From The Media:

How many specialised MBAs exist is hard to define, as schools routinely offer some degree of concentration and the dividing line between a general-purpose MBA with a few sector-specific add-ons and one purposely designed around an industry is not always clear. – The Economist

We purposely published the modern slavery bill in draft form for pre-legislative scrutiny so that we could listen and respond to constructive contributions and concerns. – The Guardian

“By purposefully limiting your connection to friends and friends of friends only,” the founders explain on the Web site, “you get the best of both worlds: the reliability of friends, and the excitement of meeting someone new”. – The New York Times

He has purposefully lived in drug-plagued neighbourhoods, shoveled the snow of a constituent, rescued another from fire, and lived on food stamps for a week. – The Economist


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By Ryan Fisher

Ryan holds degrees from Pacific Lutheran University and specializes in proofreading, editing, and content writing with an emphasis on business communication.

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