in·​cen·​tive | \ in-ˈsen-tiv How to pronounce incentive (audio) \

Essential Meaning of incentive

: something that encourages a person to do something or to work harder Our salespeople are given financial incentives for reaching their quotas. [=if they reach their quotas they are paid more money] The rising cost of electricity provides a strong/powerful incentive to conserve energy. See More ExamplesThe government offers special tax incentives for entrepreneurs. The company is offering a special low price as an added incentive for new customers. employees who lack incentiveHide

Full Definition of incentive

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

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 Aron Solomon, Esquire Digital’s chief legal analyst, said the guilty charges might even be an incentive for investors to put more money in risky startups. Celina Tebor, USA TODAY, 6 Jan. 2022 With so many more cases unreported through at-home tests, there's little incentive to try. Arkansas Online, 31 Dec. 2021 Besides, there's less incentive to work the land when selling it can be much more lucrative. Rachel Howard, Travel + Leisure, 27 Dec. 2021 Many technicians said there is little incentive to stay at most retail pharmacies when less stressful jobs are easily available for higher pay. NBC News, 27 Dec. 2021 But the risk of handling a too-big workload and the feeling that his hospital wasn’t supporting him or his colleagues were too big an incentive to leave. Fortune, 21 Dec. 2021 Those bans have been an incentive for existing train companies to up their connectivity and add longer, overnight routes. J.r. Patterson, Condé Nast Traveler, 11 Dec. 2021 However, social media companies' profits are directly tied to the amount of screen time a customer spends online, so there is little economic incentive to implement any safety improvement that limits screen time. Peter Suciu, Forbes, 10 Dec. 2021 Yet without EVs in place, there is no commercial incentive to install them. Washington Post, 9 Dec. 2021

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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Time Traveler for incentive

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near incentive



incentive wage

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Last Updated

10 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Incentive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for incentive


in·​cen·​tive | \ in-ˈsen-tiv How to pronounce incentive (audio) \

Kids Definition of incentive

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

More from Merriam-Webster on incentive

Nglish: Translation of incentive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of incentive for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about incentive


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