raison d'être

[ rey-zohn de-truh; French re-zawn de-truh ]
/ ˈreɪ zoʊn ˈdɛ trə; French rɛ zɔ̃ ˈdɛ trə /

noun, plural rai·sons d'ê·tre [rey-zohnz de-truh; French re-zawn de-truh] /ˈreɪ zoʊnz ˈdɛ trə; French rɛ zɔ̃ ˈdɛ trə/.

reason or justification for being or existence: Art is the artist's raison d'être.

Origin of raison d'être

Borrowed into English from French around 1865–70
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for raison d'etre

raison d'être

/ French (rɛzɔ̃ dɛtrə) /

noun plural raisons d'être (rɛzɔ̃ dɛtrə)

reason or justification for existence
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

Word Origin and History for raison d'etre

raison d'etre


"excuse for being," 1864, first recorded in letter of J.S. Mill, from French raison d'être, literally "rational grounds for existence."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for raison d'etre

raison d'être

[ (ray-zohnn det-ruh) ]

A basic, essential purpose; a reason to exist: “Professor Naylor argues that in the nuclear age, infantry forces have lost their raison d'être.” From French, meaning “reason for being.”

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.