in·​cen·​tive | \in-ˈsen-tiv \

Definition of incentive 

: something that incites or has a tendency to incite to determination or action

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Other Words from incentive

incentive adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for incentive

motive, impulse, incentive, inducement, spur, goad mean a stimulus to action. motive implies an emotion or desire operating on the will and causing it to act. a motive for the crime impulse suggests a driving power arising from personal temperament or constitution. buying on impulse incentive applies to an external influence (such as an expected reward) inciting to action. a bonus was offered as an incentive inducement suggests a motive prompted by the deliberate enticements or allurements of another. offered a watch as an inducement to subscribe spur applies to a motive that stimulates the faculties or increases energy or ardor. fear was a spur to action goad suggests a motive that keeps one going against one's will or desire. thought insecurity a goad to worker efficiency

Examples of incentive in a Sentence

The rising cost of electricity provides a strong incentive to conserve energy. The government offers special tax incentives for entrepreneurs. The company is offering a special low price as an added incentive for new customers.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Martin Lyons, chief financial officer for the city, has said the plan is to analyze the local preference program for a year and see how much of an incentive the city has given local contractors. Steve Lord, Aurora Beacon-News, "Aurora OKs formula to give preference to local firms bidding for city contracts," 29 June 2018 Over the last few years, lease pull-ahead programs have gotten very popular with automakers, and are just another form of an incentive. Jerry Reynolds, Houston Chronicle, "Make an informed decision on pull-ahead lease offers," 23 June 2018 Apparently, part of the incentive for this trade discussion is Orlando’s desire to add size at point guard. Rick Bonnell, charlotteobserver, "Reports: Trade could send Bismack Biyombo back to the Charlotte Hornets," 7 July 2018 Foxconn’s decision to build a factory in Wisconsin was a one-off, requiring an extraordinary package of tax incentives and other sweeteners worth more than $4 billion. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, "Trump's trade war comes to Wisconsin," 30 June 2018 Adoption of the necessary technology still seems too far off, given the current lack of market incentives and supporting policies. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "Splitting water for fuel while removing CO₂ from the air," 28 June 2018 However, for retailers such as Wayfair and Newegg that sell big-ticket items, the new ruling represents the loss of a major incentive for customers to buy online. Paul Takahashi, Houston Chronicle, "Supreme Court’s sales tax ruling upends online shopping," 21 June 2018 The question is how Trump broadens his repertoire of incentives to Kim that go beyond the economy., "Trump has never faced an adversary like Kim Jong Un," 11 June 2018 The city has awarded the project $3.9 million worth of incentives through its Center City Housing Incentive Policy, city records show. Richard Webner, San Antonio Express-News, "Two downtown residential projects win historic approval," 7 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'incentive.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of incentive

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for incentive

Middle English, from Late Latin incentivum, from neuter of incentivus stimulating, from Latin, setting the tune, from incentus, past participle of incinere to play (a tune), from in- + canere to sing — more at chant

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Dictionary Entries near incentive





incentive wage



Statistics for incentive

Last Updated

2 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for incentive

The first known use of incentive was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for incentive



English Language Learners Definition of incentive

: something that encourages a person to do something or to work harder


in·​cen·​tive | \in-ˈsen-tiv \

Kids Definition of incentive

: something that makes a person try or work hard or harder Longer recess was an incentive to finish our work.

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Comments on incentive

What made you want to look up incentive? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something that serves to warn or remind

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