Intent or intention?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Berlingot, Aug 23, 2005.

  1. Berlingot New Member

    France, French, English, German
    Could an native English speaker explain if there is any difference between "intent" and "intention"? If there is, please give a few examples of sentences.
    Thanks for your answers.
  2. modgirl Senior Member

    USA English, French, Russian
    Wow -- good question! Here is what my Webster's dictionary says:

    "Intention is the general word implying a having something in mind as a plan or design, or referring to the plan had in mind. Intent, a somewhat formal term now largely in legal usage, connotes more deliberation (assault with an intent to kill)"

    That explanation is certainly better than mine, and I find it true.

    Edit: You asked for sentences; sorry.

    My intention was to buy a long dress to wear as a guest at the wedding. However, after shopping awhile, I didn't find any styles of long dresses that I liked, so I bought a short one instead.

    Our apartment building has a strict policy of no pets. My neighbor, George, rarely visits me. So when he knocked at my door this morning, I just knew his intent was to find my cat!

    Thus, an intention is a general plan that one has in mind. An intent is really a deliberate plan.
  3. Merlin Senior Member

    Philippines - Tagalog/English
    According to Mr, here are the things I came up with.
    implies little more than what one has in mind to do or bring about
    1.the act or fact of intending
    2. the design or purpose to commit a wrongful or criminal act
    3. the state of mind with which an act is done
    4. a usually clearly formulated or planned intention
    Hope this helps!
  4. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    The words mean exactly the same thing. But look at some of the words the dictionary uses while groping around for a difference. "Act" and "purpose to commit" and "clearly," as if an intent is somehow clearer or stronger or more "serious" than any intention can be.

    The word does not differ in meaning, as the intention to do something can have any quality-- vacillation, resolve, clarity, forcefulness. But intent is somehow used to convey a little more emphasis.

    This is because two-syllable words are generally more emphatic than larger ones, or can be used to greater advantage by someone who knows how to put cadence to use in delivering a thought. That skill is rhetorical, exactly like a comedian timing the punchline of his joke.

    Yes, we're in the realm of the "punchy" style again. Intent is the punchier of the two words, and if it's the part of your message you want to emphasize, it might work better-- but it's used in legalese and in crime drama, so it tends to call attention to itself. Focusing that much attention on intentions can call them into question, so the more vivid word can also carry negative implications.

    These two words differ in their rhetorical function, and they differ only subtly at that. Dictionaries aren't too useful for getting after those differences, and the only "lexicon" that suffices for rhetorical skill is a personal backlog of experience with the words-- mostly listening to the way they are used, noticing when they're used effectively and when not, and remembering enough such examples over the years, that you can sort them out at leisure and possibly see what pattern the successful uses have in common.

    The short answer is, intent has one fewer syllable. The long answer is a question-- what difference does that make, in choosing between two words that mean the same thing?
  5. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Welcome to the Forums Berlingot,

    Thanks for a provocative question.

    As a generality, intention is general, while intent is specific.

    It is not my intent to dispute the prior posts; rather, I wish to add to them.

    Here I've used intent to denote a specific motive. I could have substituted intention, but that would have been more difuse.

  6. morx Member

    American/German USA/Germany
    is there any difference between intent and intention
    or despair and desperation or are they interchangeable?
  7. french4beth

    french4beth Senior Member

    Hi morx,
    The words 'intent' and 'intention' are shown as synonyms and mean pretty much the same thing.
    Here are some more definitions.

    P.S. For 'despair' and 'desperation' you need to open a new thread since this is a different topic.
  8. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    Hello, morx.
    Please remember to create a new thread for each question. I have split this thread into two for you.
    Thank you.
  9. morx Member

    American/German USA/Germany
    OK, thanks. I will remember it next time.
  10. Emily2008 New Member

    The two words can both express the meaning "purpose". Is there some differences between them?
  11. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I think intent is usually pejorative, and also rather more literary. Intention is more usual and is morally neutral, to my ear.
  12. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    I disagree with TT about the "usually pejorative" nature of intent. In legal usage, it is certainly pejorative most, if not all, of the time. Otherwise, it means purpose or aim, and is often applied in a strictly neutral way.
  13. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    That strictly is interesting, Cuchu. We maybe up against an AE/BE thing, but I'm not sure; nor am I sure how we might test the issue objectively. I tried running some combinations across my literature (AE and BE) database and got the following results:

    Good intent - 94 hits Good intention - 142 hits
    Evil intent - 96 hits Evil intention - 51 hits
    Bad intent - 42 hits Bad intention - 9 hits.

    This would mildly suggest that intent was only slightly perjorative, and that intentions are usually benevolent on the pen of serious writers.

    What nonsense I talk! I'm still not confident we can be strict about any of this.
  14. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    If we move beyond literature and law, and into general usage, it is very easy to find intent used in a neutral (no moral overtones) way at .uk sites.

    Results 1 - 10 of about 787 for "our intent is to"

    Whether intention is or isn't more widely used (I strongly suspect it is far more common) has nothing to do with the pejorative/neutral/positive aspects of intent.

    Here are a few .uk examples, free of morality (if not free of marketing puffery :) ):

    1. Cray Research Shows Path To Unified High-Performance Architecture

      "Our intent is to make the transition to the new architecture graceful and transparent for all, and most of our customers will see only one transition," he ... - 14k - Cached - Similar pages -
    2. The NCSTRL Approach to Open Architecture for the Confederated ...

      Our intent is to continue development and evolution of this architecture and the NCSTRL system. At the same time, though, we believe that this architecture ... - 29k - Cached - Similar pages -
      by DL Magazine - 1998 - Cited by 70 - Related articles
    3. NaturalNess Portal, New Age, Gifts, supplies, new spirituality ...

      Our intent is to provide good quality new age products at incredible prices in order to promote a new more natural and holistic approach to living and the ... - 17k -
  15. johndot Senior Member

    English - England
    One’s “intent” is the state of mind when carrying out one’s “intentions”, isn’t it?
  16. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I wish it were so simple, John. The trouble is that we seem to have intents and well as intentions, and for some people the two are interchangeable.

    Looking through the literature database, I was often surprised at how one writer would use the one word where I would have used the other. To all intents and purposes, I think it's difficult to find a pattern.
  17. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    One thought I had overnight. I at least - I hesitate to say we in this context - use the words in different contructions. I say:

    with intent to harm, not with intention to harm,
    but with the intention of harming, not with the intent of harming.

    Google seems to support the first contention, but not very emphatically the second:

    With intent to harm (53.7K hits), with intention to harm (1K hits).
    With the intention of harming (19K hits), with the intent of harming (11.6K hits).
  18. Emily2008 New Member

    Thank you very much! I am so grateful that you have pay so much attention to my question and have given detaild and convincing answer. Thank you very much!
  19. johndot Senior Member

    English - England
    I came across this sentence in another thread, and I wondered if it sounded quite right: should it be ‘intention’ or something else?

    Since the main intention of the book is to denounce the negative aspects of [...]

    In the end I decided it was right, but what would the difference have been if the author had written ‘intent’ instead? I found myself making this distinction:

    Since the main intention of the book = the general aims and ideas that the author is trying to get across;
    Since its (the book’s) intent = the book aims to drive home the issues

    One normally “has the intention of” doing something, as opposed to “is intent upon” (doing) something. Thus, isn’t the real difference just a matter of degree of the strength of purpose?
  20. stillwater Member

    Could anyone explain the different usage between "intent" and "intention"? Are they interchangeable most of the time? Thanks in advance.
  21. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    See above :)

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