a. The producer of an effect, result, or consequence.
b. The one, such as a person, event, or condition, that is responsible for an action or result.
2. A basis for an action or response; a reason: The doctor's report gave no cause for alarm.
3. A goal or principle served with dedication and zeal: “the cause of freedom versus tyranny” (Hannah Arendt).
4. The interests of a person or group engaged in a struggle: “The cause of America is in great measure the cause of all mankind” (Thomas Paine).
a. A lawsuit or criminal prosecution.
b. The ground or basis for a lawsuit.
6. A subject under debate or discussion.
tr.v. caused, caus·ing, caus·es
1. To be the cause of or reason for; result in.
2. To bring about or compel by authority or force: The moderator invoked a rule causing the debate to be ended.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin causa, reason, cause, grounds for a lawsuit, lawsuit, of unknown origin.]
Synonyms: cause, reason, occasion, antecedent
These nouns denote what brings about or is associated with an effect or result. A cause is an agent or condition that permits the occurrence of an effect or leads to a result: “He is not only dull in himself, but the cause of dullness in others” (Samuel Foote).
Reason refers to what explains the occurrence or nature of an effect: There was no obvious reason for the accident.
Occasion is something that brings on or precipitates an action, condition, or event: “Injustice provides the occasion for change” (Alan Dershowitz).
Antecedent refers to what has gone before and implies a relationship—but not necessarily a causal one—with what ensues: Some of the antecedents of World War II lie in economic conditions in Europe following World War I.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.