[ im-per-uh-tiv ]
See synonyms for: imperativeimperativesimperativelyimperativeness on

  1. absolutely necessary or required; unavoidable: It is imperative that we leave.

  2. of the nature of or expressing a command; commanding.

  1. Grammar. noting or pertaining to the mood of the verb used in commands, requests, etc., as in Listen! Go!: Compare indicative (def. 2), subjunctive (def. 1).

  1. a command.

  2. something that demands attention or action; an unavoidable obligation or requirement; necessity: It is an imperative that we help defend friendly nations.

  1. Grammar.

    • the imperative mood.

    • a verb in this mood.

  2. an obligatory statement, principle, or the like.

Origin of imperative

First recorded in 1520–30; from Late Latin imperātivus, equivalent to Latin imperāt(us) “imposed,” past participle of imperāre “to impose, order, command” (im- im-1 + -perāre, combining form of parāre “to set, get ready, produce, obtain”; see prepare) + -īvus -ive

Other words for imperative

Other words from imperative

  • im·per·a·tive·ly, adverb
  • im·per·a·tive·ness, noun
  • non·im·per·a·tive, adjective
  • non·im·per·a·tive·ly, adverb
  • non·im·per·a·tive·ness, noun
  • un·im·per·a·tive, adjective
  • un·im·per·a·tive·ly, adverb

Words that may be confused with imperative

Words Nearby imperative Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use imperative in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for imperative


/ (ɪmˈpɛrətɪv) /

  1. extremely urgent or important; essential

  2. peremptory or authoritative: an imperative tone of voice

  1. Also: imperatival (ɪmˌpɛrəˈtaɪvəl) grammar denoting a mood of verbs used in giving orders, making requests, etc. In English the verb root without any inflections is the usual form, as for example leave in Leave me alone

  1. something that is urgent or essential

  2. an order or command

  1. grammar

    • the imperative mood

    • a verb in this mood

Origin of imperative

C16: from Late Latin imperātīvus, from Latin imperāre to command

Derived forms of imperative

  • imperatively, adverb
  • imperativeness, noun

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

Cultural definitions for imperative


A grammatical category describing verbs that command or request: “Leave town by tonight”; “Please hand me the spoon.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.