Quick: What’s the opposite of aimless? Is it aimy, aimish, aimly, aimsome, aimed, or aimful?
There’s a case to be made for each one, you know. Come, see.
You may be thinking, “Aimy? Oh, come on, that’s almost someone’s name.” Which it is, yes, but let’s be frank: it’s hardly the only English word that sounds like someone’s name. And tell me: What’s the opposite of rainless? Of iceless? Of snowless? Of dustless? Of dirtless? Of smokeless? Of leafless? Why, it’s rainy, icy, snowy, dusty, dirty, smoky, and leafy. Now, you may object that these are all things you encounter in nature, not abstract concepts, and you’re not wrong. But then there’s sleepless and sleepy and guiltless and guilty. They all have a sense of general dispersion of suffusion of the thing or quality, though, so aimy would mean something like ‘tending to have an aim; inclined to aim’.
Aimish has about the same problems. It looks like Amish, of course, though (unless you have an unusual way of saying Amish) it doesn’t sound like it. And it often connotes a certain general tendency; boyish, boorish, and brutish aren’t really opposites of boyless, boorless, and bruteless, though on the other hand Daneless could be an opposite of Danish. Still, while beamish might readily be said to be the opposite of beamless, aimish is among the less likely contenders for opposite of aimless.
OK, how about aimly? I don’t mean the adverbial form (“He raised the gun aimly”—actually, I don’t even fancy that). What is the opposite of godless? Why, godly, of course. We may think that lovely and homely are not opposites of loveless and homeless, but originally they pretty much were. But in general, -ly indicates tendency or likeness (it’s from the same root as like, in fact), so it’s not as strong an opposite as one might shoot for.
Well, then, aimsome has some aim, doesn’t it? Sure, sure, handsome is not the opposite of handless, but adventuresome opposes adventureless, and tiresome opposes tireless. Still, it’s not the most common formation for this kind of thing, and it generally expresses a tendency to causation – so what is aimsome is perhaps more likely to give aim to the aimless than to be itself the thing that is no longer aimless.
Aimed seems almost too easy. Obviously if a gun is aimed, it’s not aimless, right? But that opposes a very literal sense to a more figurative one. Besides, that’s not what I was aiming at. I mean the -ed that forms an adjective straight from a noun without passing through a verb in between. For instance, a person who is wearing a bowtie can be said to be bowtied, even though they were not tied in a bow, and one who is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed has not been the subject of bright-eyeing or bushy-tailing. And clearly if you are bowtied you are very much not bowtieless. (There is also a be- formation, as in bespectacled, but beaimed is just… no.) The only thing is, these all seem to imply a bestowal. You are aimed if you have been given an aim. Which is consistent with the usual sense of aimed, of course! But it’s not the best opposite of aimless; what we want is a word for a more self-motivated quality.
Which leads us to aimful. Full of aim. Just like beautiful, restful, joyful, and so on, all of which suitably oppose beautyless, restless, joyless, and so on. And guess what? Of all these words (leaving aside aimed), aimful is the one that has made it into the Oxford English Dictionary and Wiktionary. It’s been in use at least since the 1700s, and it still shows up from time to time. (Aimless, on the other hand, has been around at least since the 1500s. But I think it’s usual to be first aimless and then aimful, no?)
Notwithstanding all that, though, I must admit that my favourite of the bunch is aimy. I just think it’s more… amiable.