Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Aim and Purpose

Aim vs Purpose

Aim and purpose – yet another pair of synonyms in the English language. Who’d ever think that these two are not the same in meaning? Besides, they are both plain and straightforward that nothing can seem to prove them dissimilar. Matter of fact, any thesaurus will show the same words listed beside each other. By and large, they are similar and can be used in many similar contexts. There are, however, some scenarios where the choice of word between aim and purpose can cause a slight difference in meaning.

Although most dictionaries and thesaurus indicate the sameness of aim and purpose, we should not miss one important factor that sets them apart. Both words mean an object intended to be attained, or simply an intention. But purpose carries along an additional meaning which is ‘the reason for which something is intended or done’. In other words, a purpose answers the question ‘why’, while an aim answers the question ‘what’. For instance, in the statement ‘this is the purpose of installing 5 new laser printers’ translates to the reason why they’re installing the printers. The answer could be to make us more efficient or to cut cost from availing third-party printing services. On the other hand, ‘this is the aim of installing 5 new laser printers’ means what the new printers are trying to accomplish. The answer to it may be to produce 10 times more copies or 50% off third-party provider price. In essence, purpose becomes the basis for carrying out an action, while aim is the targeted result.

Here is another example. The phrase ‘the purpose of the surprise birthday bash’ practically means the reason for holding a birthday party. The purpose is apparently to surprise the celebrator with a sponsored birthday party. ‘The aim of the surprise birthday bash’ is to make sure that everything is in check, including the guest list, food and drinks, music, and venue, to make it a blast. In this scenario, we can see that purpose is the broader concept, whereas aim involves the nitty-gritty of the whole idea. Also, purpose somewhat serves as the guiding plan while the aim will be the end-result of combined tasks and tactics to achieve the purpose.

In this third example, notice how they are used in the following sentences. ‘My purpose for going to the airport is to see her for the last time. I aim to arrive at 5 a.m., an hour before she takes off.’ The first sentence clearly indicates the reason as to why the subject is going to the airport. The second statement points out the specific task to be done in order to accomplish the main purpose. The same goes with the following: ‘My family’s purpose for leaving the country is to have a peaceful home. We aim to procure a farmhouse in New Zealand and stay there for good.’ The purpose explains in a rather broad sense why the family is leaving the country. It is supported by the aim, which expounds the plan to more specific and highly feasible action points.


  1. On the whole, aim and purpose are used similarly in many different contexts. Most dictionaries and thesauruses consider them synonymous with one another.
  2. They both mean ‘an object intended to be attained, or simply an intention.’
  3. A distinguishing factor between the two is that purpose also means ‘reason.’
  4. A purpose is the basis for carrying out an action. Aim is the targeted end-result
  5. A purpose indicates a relatively broader objective. It serves as a guiding plan for carrying out the tasks to meet the goal. An aim expounds the plan to specific action points.

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  1. I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU for this excellent explanation. I especially liked your examples. Every time I write a new project, I google “what is the difference between aim and purpose”, but this explanation was so good I contemplate printing it for future reference.

  2. really, i cant explain how much it helped me.. thanks for clarifying ^^

  3. Nice, This article clarified the ambiguity between purpose and aim.

  4. Thank you.
    Last night my wife asked me to wake up at 5 am and explore the purpose of life.
    I am now much more clearer about it after reading your description .
    Thank you.

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