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cross-purpose

[kraws-pur-puh s, kros-]
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noun
  1. an opposing or contrary purpose.
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Idioms
  1. at cross-purposes, in a way that involves or produces mutual misunderstanding or frustration, usually unintentionally.
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Origin of cross-purpose

First recorded in 1660–70
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for at cross purposes

cross-purpose

noun
  1. a contrary aim or purpose
  2. at cross-purposes conflicting; opposed; disagreeing
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Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Idioms and Phrases with at cross purposes

at cross purposes

With aims or goals that conflict or interfere with one another, as in I'm afraid the two departments are working at cross purposes. This idiom, first recorded in 1688, may have begun as a 17th-century parlor game called “cross-purposes,” in which a series of subjects (or questions) were divided from their explanations (or answers) and distributed around the room. Players then created absurdities by combining a subject taken from one person with an explanation taken from another.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.