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What is to purchase? Definition and meaning

The verb to purchase means to buy, to acquire something by paying for it, as in ‘I purchased this bracelet at a street market in the South of France last year.’ As a noun, the term refers to an item that is bought, or may refer to the action of buying, as in ‘the purchase of automatic weapons will be restricted to a very limited group of people,’ or ‘will you be paying for your purchase with cash or a credit card?’

As a noun it can also mean the grip on the ground – a firm hold – to prevent something from slipping, as in ‘The ballerina used a special powder on the bottom of her shoes to help them get a better purchase on the surface of the floor.’

Possible synonyms of the verb ‘to purchase’ are: to get, buy, secure, acquire or shop.

Purchase a verb and a nounAs a verb ‘to purchase’ means to buy, while as a noun it is something that is bought.

According to BusinessDictionary.com, purchase means:

“1. To buy a product or service. 2. A product or service that has been bought by an individual or business.”

Etymology of purchase

Etymologists (people who study the origins of words) say that the modern verb to purchase emerged in 1300 Britain with the meaning ‘to acquire, get, receive, procure, and provide’, as well as ‘to instigate, bring about, accomplish, plot, recruit and hire’.



Etymonline.com says that the verb comes from the Anglo-French word purchaser ‘go after’, which originated from the Old French word porchacier which meant ‘to procure, aim at, buy, search for, pursue eagerly, or strive for, plus Old French chacier ‘to hunt, run after, chase’.

As a noun, the word purchas appeared in thirteenth century Britain with the meaning ‘gain, acquisition, something acquired, something received, a possession.’ It that time purchas was also a mercenary soldier who fought for booty, which originated from Anglo-French purchace, which came from the Old French word porchaz ‘plunder, acquisition, gain, profit, effort, search pursuit.’

Powder on ballet shows for better purchaseThe noun can also mean ‘a firm hold’. Ballet dancers commonly use a special power on their shoes, which helps them get a better purchase on the floor.

Business/Financial terms using purchase

From the root word ‘purchase’, there are many business and finance terms:

Purchases Account: a general ledger account where the inventory purchases of a business are recorded.



Purchasing Power: people and organization’s ability to buy things, depending on how much money they have available. It also refers to the value of a particular currency expressed in terms of the amount of goods and services one unit of that money can buy.

Purchaser: a buyer, a person who buys something.

Purchase Tax: a tax that is added to the price of an item that people buy, also called sales tax. It is not usually added to basic goods such as bread. In the UK it is called VAT (value added tax) – when it was introduced in 1973, it replaced purchase tax.

Purchase Price: the amount of money that is paid for an item or service, i.e. how much it costs to buy something.

Purchase Order: an official document stating that one party wishes to buy something. The document includes specifics such as size, quantity, cost, etc.

Purchase Invoice: a commercial document or bill given to the buyer by the seller for payment within a certain number of days. The document indicates what has been bought, how many/much, and for what price.

Purchase Acquisition: an accounting method used in a merger in which the acquirer treats the company it is buying as an investment, adding its assets to its own balance sheet, and recording all premiums paid above the market price as goodwill, to be charged against future income.

Origin of word purchaseThe modern verb and noun forms of the word come from Old French and Anglo-Saxon French.

Point of Purchase Advertising: a form of advertising built around impulse buying and that utilizes displays designed to catch a shopper’s eye at the place where payment is made, such as the checkout counter.

Point Of Purchase (POP): a place where something is sold or where something is bought. It could be the name and address of the shop, the mall, market or city, while on a micro-level it could refer to the area around the counter where the customer has paid (point of sale).

Hire Purchase: a system by which people pay for something in regular installments while having the use of it. The document is called a hire purchase contract.

Direct Purchase: the act or practice of buying shares in a publicly-traded company directly, without using an intermediary such as a broker.

Contract of Purchase: also called a purchase agreement, a legal document that includes the conditions when a party buys something from another party, such as the price.

Compulsory Purchase: in the UK, when the government or a government organization is authorized legally to make an owner sell his or her property or land and pays a specific amount of money for it.

Compulsory Purchase Order: a court instruction that gives a local authority the right to buy land or property.

Advance Purchase Fare: a cheap travel ticket either by plane or train that has to be bought so many days before the travel date.

Famous quotes using ‘purchase’ or ‘purchasing’

– “Purchasing the Bobcats is the culmination of my post-playing career goal of becoming the majority owner of an NBA franchise,” (Michael Jordan – an American retired professional basketball player, principal owner and chairman of the Charlotte Hornets)

– “The price of every thing rises and falls from time to time and place to place; and with every such change the purchasing power of money changes so far as that thing goes,” (Alfred Marshall 1842-1924 – a well-known English economist, said to be one of the most influential of his time)

– “I saw a boy of the crew purchasing javelins of them with bits of platters and broken glass,” (Christopher Columbus 1451-1506 – an Italian explorer, navigator and colonizer, believed to be the first European to discover America)

– “Consumers have not been told effectively enough that they have huge power and that purchasing and shopping involve a moral choice,” (Anita Roddick 1942-2007 – a British businesswoman, found of The Body Shop)

– “The greatly increased consumption of alcoholic beverages is very largely a direct result of the increased purchasing power created by wartime expenditures,” (William Lyon Mackenzie King 1874-1950 – tenth Prime Minister of Canada)

– “When I am there at our global product development centers, I am meeting with the design team and reviewing design work being done there and meeting with engineers responsible for work being done specific to that region, meeting with purchasing team,” (Mary Barra – an American, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the General Motors Company)

– “That it is logical, fair and reasonable to maintain the purchasing power of an hour’s work in terms of goods and services the employee must purchase in his daily living,” (Charles E. Wilson 1890-1961 – former CEO of General Motors and US Secretary of Defense from 1953 to 1957)

– “In every country except – industrial country except the United States, the government uses its massive purchasing power to negotiate drug prices. That’s one of the reasons prices are so much higher in the United States than in other countries,” (Noam Chomsky – an American linguist, logician, social critic, cognitive scientist, philosopher, historian, and political activist)

Video – What is a purchase order?

Thie Disprax video explains what a purchase order is, and gives several reasons why they are useful.