adjective im·per·a·tive \im-ˈper-ə-tiv, -ˈpe-rə-\

: very important

grammar : having the form that expresses a command rather than a statement or a question

: expressing a command in a forceful and confident way

Full Definition of IMPERATIVE

a :  of, relating to, or constituting the grammatical mood that expresses the will to influence the behavior of another
b :  expressive of a command, entreaty, or exhortation
c :  having power to restrain, control, and direct
:  not to be avoided or evaded :  necessary <an imperative duty>
im·per·a·tive·ly adverb
im·per·a·tive·ness noun

Examples of IMPERATIVE

  1. … I have begun to feel each time as if I am mutilating my antennae (which is how Rastafarians, among others, think of hair) and attenuating my power. It seems imperative not to cut my hair anymore. —Alice Walker, Living by the Word, (1981) 1988


Middle English imperatyf, from Late Latin imperativus, from Latin imperatus, past participle of imperare to command — more at emperor
First Known Use: 15th century

Synonym Discussion of IMPERATIVE

masterful, domineering, imperious, peremptory, imperative mean tending to impose one's will on others. masterful implies a strong personality and ability to act authoritatively <her masterful personality soon dominated the movement>. domineering suggests an overbearing or arbitrary manner and an obstinate determination to enforce one's will <children controlled by domineering parents>. imperious implies a commanding nature or manner and often suggests arrogant assurance <an imperious executive used to getting his own way>. peremptory implies an abrupt dictatorial manner coupled with an unwillingness to brook disobedience or dissent <given a peremptory dismissal>. imperative implies peremptoriness arising more from the urgency of the situation than from an inherent will to dominate <an imperative appeal for assistance>.

Some commentators insist that use of masterful should be limited to sense 1 in order to preserve a distinction between it and masterly. The distinction is a modern one, excogitated by a 20th century pundit in disregard of the history of the word. Both words developed in a parallel manner but the earlier sense of masterly, equivalent to masterful 1, dropped out of use. Since masterly had but one sense, the pundit opined that it would be tidy if masterful were likewise limited to one sense and he forthwith condemned use of masterful 2 as an error. Sense 2 of masterful, which is slightly older than the sense of masterly intended to replace it, has continued in reputable use all along; it cannot rationally be called an error.

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms

ablaut, allusion, anacoluthon, diacritic, gerund, idiom, infinitive, metaphor, semiotics, simile

Rhymes with IMPERATIVE


noun im·per·a·tive \im-ˈper-ə-tiv, -ˈpe-rə-\

: a command, rule, duty, etc., that is very important or necessary

grammar the imperative : the form that a verb or sentence has when it is expressing a command

: an imperative verb or sentence

Full Definition of IMPERATIVE

:  the grammatical mood that expresses the will to influence the behavior of another or a verb form or verbal phrase expressing it
:  something that is imperative (see 1imperative): as
a :  command, order
b :  rule, guide
c :  an obligatory act or duty
d :  an obligatory judgment or proposition

Examples of IMPERATIVE

  1. Ellroy has got to be the only writer who still uses dig as an imperative … —Laura Miller, New York Times Book Review, 20 May 2001


(see 1imperative)
First Known Use: 1530
IMPERATIVE Defined for Kids


adjective im·per·a·tive \im-ˈper-ə-tiv\

Definition of IMPERATIVE for Kids

:  expressing a command, request, or strong encouragement <“Come here!” is an imperative sentence.>
:  urgent 1 <It is imperative that you see a doctor.>
Medical Dictionary


adjective im·per·a·tive \im-ˈper-ət-iv\

Medical Definition of IMPERATIVE

:  eliciting a motor response <an imperative stimulus>


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