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An intentional slight

Q: On the car radio today, I heard someone say “for all intensive purposes.” Yuck! What is the world coming to?

A: What you should have heard, of course, is “for all intents and purposes.” Here the noun “intent” (which dates back to about 1225) means “intention” or “inclination.”

The phrase means for all practical purposes or practically. The first citation in the Oxford English Dictionary is from a 1546 act adopted during the reign of King Henry VIII: “To all intents, constructions, and purposes.”

Here’s a later citation, written by Joseph Addison in a 1709 issue of The Tatler: “Whoever resides in the World without having any Business in it … is to me a Dead Man to all Intents and Purposes.”

In English, the adjectives “intense” and “intensive” have nothing to do with the nouns “intent” and “intention,” but all are ultimately related to the Latin verb intendere, meaning to stretch or strain.

That, for all intents and purposes, is the story.

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