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

Definition of incentive

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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Many companies have sought to reduce bird deaths in recent decades by working in cooperation with wildlife officials, but the incentive to participate in such efforts drops absent the threat of criminal liability. Matthew Brown, ajc, "Trump administration scales back wild bird protections," 5 Jan. 2021 The incentive helped quickly boost Oyo’s room count. Newley Purnell, WSJ, "Oyo Hotel Chain Suffered Ailments Beyond Pandemic’s Travel Slowdown," 1 Jan. 2021 There is, however, one interest group that has both the clout and the incentive to liberate us from unsatisfying political equilibrium and create the political space for moderates of both parties to come together. Washington Post, "Five (somewhat) upbeat predictions for 2021," 31 Dec. 2020 The men's college basketball season – now a month in after a Nov. 25 start date – continues to push through the holiday season with the long-term incentive of the 2021 NCAA tournament. Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY, "College basketball misery index: Will North Carolina suffer another setback season?," 26 Dec. 2020 Given the coronavirus's effects on the respiratory system, lighting up a cigarette this year may have seemed unfathomable to some, but sales indicate that the chemical incentive of nicotine remained a draw for many. NBC News, "Your brain on cortisol: Why overstressed gray matter is leading us astray in lockdown," 25 Dec. 2020 The audit found that the incentive has not encouraged more small local businesses to seek city contracts. David Garrick, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Audit slams San Diego program that aims to help minorities, women land more city contracts," 22 Dec. 2020 Business travel simply isn’t possible right now, but the incentive to fly remains. Eric Adams, Wired, "Airlines’ Pandemic-Driven Cargo Business Will Keep Flying," 18 Dec. 2020 But in 2011, when Medicare implemented a system that lumped payment for dialysis in with the drugs used during treatment (thus removing the financial incentive to over-prescribe), dosing of epoetin alfa plummeted. Carrie Arnold, Quartz, "Kidney dialysis is a booming business. Is it also a rigged one?," 15 Dec. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about incentive

Time Traveler for incentive

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for incentive

Last Updated

22 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Incentive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for incentive


How to pronounce incentive (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of incentive

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


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.

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times

  • ducreux self portrait yawning
  • What is an earlier meaning of nice?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!