Difference Wiki

Meaning vs. Purpose: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 22, 2023
Meaning refers to the significance or explanation of something. Purpose refers to the reason for which something is done or created.

Key Differences

'Meaning' refers to the significance, interpretation, or explanation of something, such as a word, action, or symbol. 'Purpose,' however, denotes the reason or intention behind an action or the existence of something.
Meaning is about understanding, conveying, or finding significance in something. It is often associated with the comprehension of language, symbols, and actions. Purpose, on the other hand, relates to the objectives or goals that motivate actions or give value to existence.
Meaning can be subjective, varying with context or individual perception. It shapes how we interpret our experiences. Purpose is more about the intention or objective behind actions or existence, guiding behavior or creation.
Meaning is central in fields like linguistics, philosophy, and psychology, focusing on interpretation and significance. Purpose is often discussed in the context of life goals, existential philosophy, and motivation, dealing with direction and intent.

Comparison Chart


Significance or explanation
Reason or intention


Comprehension and interpretation
Objectives and goals


Can be subjective and vary
More about intention or objective


Interpretation of experiences
Guiding behavior or creation

Field Relevance

Linguistics, philosophy
Life goals, existential philosophy

Meaning and Purpose Definitions


Implied or symbolic significance.
The red rose has a meaning of love.


Use or function of an object.
The purpose of a hammer is to drive nails.


Explanation or interpretation.
He sought the meaning of the ancient text.


Objective or goal.
Their main purpose was to aid the community.


Significance of something.
The meaning of her smile was clear.


Reason for doing something.
Her purpose in studying hard was to excel.


Linguistic or semantic content.
The word has multiple meanings.


Intention behind an action.
The purpose of his visit was unclear.


Philosophical or existential concept.
They discussed the meaning of life.


Life goal or aspiration.
He found his purpose in teaching others.


The denotation, referent, or idea associated with a word or phrase
How many meanings does the word "dog" have?.


The object toward which one strives or for which something exists; an aim or goal
Her purpose in coming here is to talk to you. The purpose of an airliner is to transport people.


Can meaning be subjective?

Yes, it often varies by individual or context.

Can meaning change over time?

Yes, depending on context and usage.

Can purpose be personal?

Yes, it often relates to individual goals or intentions.

What does meaning refer to?

The significance or explanation of something.

Does meaning apply to language?

Yes, in interpreting words and phrases.

Is purpose always explicit?

Not always; it can be implicit or evolving.

Do objects have purpose?

Yes, usually the function they are designed for.

Is meaning always literal?

No, it can be symbolic or metaphorical.

Can meaning be universal?

Some meanings are, but many are culturally specific.

Can purpose guide life decisions?

Yes, it often influences choices and paths.

Is purpose linked to motivation?

Yes, it's a key driver of motivation.

What is purpose?

The reason or intention behind actions or creations.

Is meaning essential for communication?

Yes, it's key to understanding messages.

Is finding meaning important?

It's crucial for comprehension and connection.

Does meaning relate to emotions?

Yes, it can convey or evoke emotions.

Does purpose need to be grand?

No, it can be simple or everyday in nature.

Can one find new purposes?

Yes, purposes can change and develop.

Do artworks have meaning?

Yes, often subject to interpretation.

Can organizations have a purpose?

Yes, often defined in their missions or goals.

Is purpose fixed or dynamic?

It can evolve over time or with circumstances.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons