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

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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 His position in the polls — just behind the front-runners, without obvious momentum — gave his opponents no incentive to attack. New York Times, "What Polling Tells Us About Bernie Sanders’s Chances," 22 Jan. 2020 Prosecutors said Hayslette, who lives in Aurora, and Dublin resident Mazzucco worked to give doctors incentives to write Nuedexta prescriptions to make more money for themselves. Eric Heisig, cleveland, "Mayfield doctor agrees to cooperate with feds in probe into neurological drug’s marketing," 20 Jan. 2020 The pro-labor Economic Policy Institute said the policy gives companies incentive to outsource jobs to dodge responsibility. Harold Maass, TheWeek, "January 13, 2020," 13 Jan. 2020 In vain, some Chinese and foreign scientists have argued for less severe approaches, including the creation of tradable fishing rights that would give fisherfolk an incentive to preserve stocks. The Economist, "Chaguan To preserve the Yangzi’s fish, officials are using a blunt method," 11 Jan. 2020 Ranked-choice voting, of course, means that voters’ second and third choices matter, too, giving candidates incentives to not alienate their opponents’ supporters. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, "Can Ranked-Choice Voting Save American Democracy?," 10 Jan. 2020 Someone may share your interests or passions and give you an incentive to be more sociable. Magi Helena, oregonlive, "Horoscope for Dec. 27, 2019: Virgo, time to apologize; Scorpio, accept what comes your way," 27 Dec. 2019 The recruiting of female wrestlers will continue to draw more to the sport, giving women and college wrestling coaches an incentive to take on more from the sport. Dana Scott, azcentral, "5 Reasons why the Tolleson All-Girls Classic wrestling tournament matters," 14 Dec. 2019 But approving a drug that isn’t truly effective could expose patients to financial and medical risks and give other drugmakers less incentive to develop better treatments., "SAN DIEGO — Cambridge-based Biogen made its case to scientists Thursday on its claims to have the first drug to slow mental decline from Alzheimer’s disease, but left them sharply divided over whether there’s enough evidence of effectiveness for the medicine to warrant federal approval.," 6 Dec. 2019

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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Statistics for incentive

Last Updated

26 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Incentive.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 28 January 2020.

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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.

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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).


showing steady, earnest care and effort

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