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[kawz] /kɔz/
a person or thing that acts, happens, or exists in such a way that some specific thing happens as a result; the producer of an effect:
You have been the cause of much anxiety. What was the cause of the accident?
the reason or motive for some human action:
The good news was a cause for rejoicing.
good or sufficient reason:
to complain without cause; to be dismissed for cause.
  1. a ground of legal action; the matter over which a person goes to law.
  2. a case for judicial decision.
any subject of discussion or debate.
a principle, ideal, goal, or movement to which a person or group is dedicated:
the Socialist cause; the human rights cause.
the welfare of a person or group, seen as a subject of concern:
support for the cause of the American Indian.
  1. the end or purpose for which a thing is done or produced.
  2. Aristotelianism. any of the four things necessary for the movement or the coming into being of a thing, namely a material (material cause) something to act upon it (efficient cause) a form taken by the movement or development (formal cause) and a goal or purpose (final cause)
verb (used with object), caused, causing.
to be the cause of; bring about.
make common cause, to unite in a joint effort; work together for the same end:
They made common cause with neighboring countries and succeeded in reducing tariffs.
Origin of cause
1175-1225; Middle English < Latin causa reason, sake, case
Related forms
causable, adjective
causability, noun
causeless, adjective
causelessly, adverb
causelessness, noun
causer, noun
noncausable, adjective
self-caused, adjective
subcause, noun
uncausable, adjective
undercause, noun
Can be confused
casualty, causality, causation, cause (see synonym study at the current entry)
1. Cause, occasion refer to the starting of effects into motion. A cause is an agency, perhaps acting through a long time, or a long-standing situation, that produces an effect: The cause of the quarrel between the two men was jealousy. An occasion is an event that provides an opportunity for the effect to become evident, or perhaps promotes its becoming evident: The occasion was the fact that one man's wages were increased. 3. See reason. 9. effect, make, create, produce.


[kawz, kuhz, unstressed kuh z] /kɔz, kʌz, unstressed kəz/
conjunction, Informal.
1400-50; late Middle English; aphetic variant Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for cause
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Nobody was sure of him, and this cause augmented the difficulties of his position.

    Sir Brook Fossbrooke, Volume II. Charles James Lever
  • She put her arms about her neck, and affectionately inquired the cause of her distress.

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • Thus, the sand will be undermined by the waves, and this will cause the block to fall into the sea.

  • The breaking of Hope's engagement to Philip was attributed to every cause but the true one.

    Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson
  • Hay, wary man-about-town as he was, noted the flush, and guessed its cause.

    The Opal Serpent Fergus Hume
British Dictionary definitions for cause


a person, thing, event, state, or action that produces an effect
grounds for action; motive; justification: she had good cause to shout like that
the ideals, etc, of a group or movement: the Communist cause
the welfare or interests of a person or group in a dispute: they fought for the miners' cause
a matter of widespread concern or importance: the cause of public health
  1. a ground for legal action; matter giving rise to a lawsuit
  2. the lawsuit itself
(in the philosophy of Aristotle) any of four requirements for a thing's coming to be, namely material (material cause), its nature (formal cause), an agent (efficient cause), and a purpose (final cause)
make common cause with, to join with (a person, group, etc) for a common objective
(transitive) to be the cause of; bring about; precipitate; be the reason for
Derived Forms
causable, adjective
causability, noun
causeless, adjective
causer, noun
Word Origin
C13: from Latin causa cause, reason, motive
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
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Word Origin and History for cause

c.1200, "reason for action, grounds for action; motive," from Old French cause "cause, reason; lawsuit, case in law" (12c.), and directly from Latin causa "a cause; a reason; interest; judicial process, lawsuit," of unknown origin.

In English, sense of "matter of concern; side taken in controversy" is from c.1300; that of "the source of an effect" is early 14c.; meaning "reason for something taking place" is late 14c. Cause célèbre "celebrated legal case" is 1763, from French. Cause why? "for what reason?" is in Chaucer.


late 14c., "produce an effect," also "impel, compel," from Old French causer "to cause" (13c.) and directly from Medieval Latin causare, from Latin causa "a cause; a reason; interest; judicial process, lawsuit," of unknown origin. Related: Caused; causing. Classical Latin causari meant "to plead, to debate a question."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with cause
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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