mo·​tion | \ˈmō-shən \

Definition of motion 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1a : an act, process, or instance of changing place : movement a pendulum in motion

b : an active or functioning state or condition set the divorce proceedings in motion

2 : an impulse or inclination of the mind or will the fundamental motions of humanity to good or evil— T. S. Eliot

3a : a proposal for action especially : a formal proposal made in a deliberative assembly made a motion that the meeting be adjourned

b : an application made to a court or judge to obtain an order, ruling, or direction His motion for a new trial was denied.

4 obsolete

a : a puppet show

b : puppet

5 : mechanism

6a : an act or instance of moving the body or its parts : gesture signaled with a motion of his arm

b motions plural : activities, movements taking advantage of the night to conceal his motions

7 : melodic change of pitch

in motion

American Football, of an offensive player : running parallel to the line of scrimmage before the snap


motioned; motioning\ˈmō-​sh(ə-​)niŋ \

Definition of motion (Entry 2 of 3)

intransitive verb

: to signal by a movement or gesture the pitcher motioned to the catcher

transitive verb

: to direct by a motion motioned me to the seat


biographical name
Mo·​tion | \ˈmō-shən \

Definition of Motion (Entry 3 of 3)

Sir Andrew 1952–     British poet; poet laureate (1999–2009)

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Other Words from motion


motional \ˈmō-​shnəl, -​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective
motionless \ˈmō-​shən-​ləs \ adjective
motionlessly adverb
motionlessness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for motion

Synonyms: Noun

move, movement, shift, shifting, stir, stirring

Synonyms: Verb

beckon, flag, gesture, signal, wave

Antonyms: Noun


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Examples of motion in a Sentence


She has a simple golf swing with no wasted motion. the rhythmic motions of the waves He caught the ball and flipped it back to me in one fluid motion. The wax should be applied using a circular motion. He made hand motions to get our attention. She made a motion calling for the repeal of the law. Her motion was voted on. His lawyer filed a motion for a mistrial. The judge denied a motion to delay the hearing.


The guard motioned us through the gate. She motioned to her assistant. She motioned at the empty chair beside her and told me to sit down.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Given that The Crimes of Grindelwald takes place in 1927, that leaves a gap of 18 years during which Grindelwald can put his plans into motion. Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge, "The biggest unanswered questions from Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald," 26 Nov. 2018 Museum shows, set into motion many months in advance, sometimes uncannily arrive at just the right moment—when underlying themes and aesthetic currents take on a new resonance. Laura Regensdorf, Vogue, "Rodarte's Laura and Kate Mulleavy Talk Gender in Fashion, Floral Infatuations, and Their Dream Beauty Project," 14 Nov. 2018 Eager to play the role of pioneer, Wilson left out the plus-size actresses, many of them women of color, who’ve already played romantic leads in films that didn’t rely on a fantastical premise to set the plot into motion. Nadra Nittle, Vox, "Rebel Wilson apologized for claiming to be the “first-ever plus-sized” woman rom-com lead," 6 Nov. 2018 The unlikely partnership with Mahathir — under the banner of the Alliance of Hope — was put into motion by massive corruption at a state investment fund that prompted Mahathir to turn on his former party and return to politics. Vincent Thian, The Seattle Times, "Malaysian PM campaigns for successor and former foe Anwar," 9 Oct. 2018 When daily life is full of sedentary office meetings and digital screen fatigue, getting into nature means putting life back into motion. Peter Reese, Popular Mechanics, "The Best Way To Spend 72 Hours at Jackson Hole," 31 July 2018 Hardware manufacturers are also getting ready, with plans already in motion for a number of devices that will take advantage of those faster networks. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "The phone could use Intel’s 5G modem," 3 Nov. 2018 Lerma agrees, explaining that brushes offer a more full range of motion for flawless makeup application. Tiffany Dodson, SELF, "7 Mistakes You're Making When You Conceal Pimples," 1 Nov. 2018 Sheboygan County Judge Angela Sutkiewicz denied Avery’s motion for a new trial. German Lopez, Vox, "The first season was a huge hit, and quite a bit has happened since it premiered.," 18 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

On Monday night's episode, one contestant wowed coaches Adam Levine and Jennifer Hudson, while Kelly Clarkson and Blake Shelton never motioned to turn their chairs—and fans were not happy. Kelly O'sullivan, Country Living, "'The Voice' Fans Are Calling Out Producers for This Cringeworthy Mistake," 9 Oct. 2018 To be clear, Trump could’ve been motioning to any number of things. Alvin Chang, Vox, "We analyzed every QAnon post on Reddit. Here’s who QAnon supporters actually are.," 8 Aug. 2018 Just last month California motioned to ban all cosmetic animal testing for products sold in the state by 2020. Deanna Pai, Glamour, "CoverGirl Just Announced It's Now Entirely Cruelty-Free," 5 Nov. 2018 The reporter motioned toward Judge’s car, which was parked in the driveway and carried a collection of Superman comics, piles of clothes, and a package addressed to him. Emily Bloch, Teen Vogue, "Who Is Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh's High School Drinking Buddy?," 2 Oct. 2018 The Celtics were trailing by 1 with less than 10 seconds left when Stevens motioned for a timeout, just as Horford was about to receive an entry pass in the post against the 76ers’ Ersan Ilyasova. Scott Cacciola, New York Times, "Boston’s Al Horford Has Enough Experience for His Entire Team," 6 May 2018 When Byrne motioned to appoint Fleischhauer as interim village manager, Hunt helped explain the deal. Rick Kambic,, "Without explanation, Vernon Hills appoints retired police chief as interim village manager," 22 Mar. 2018 Then Simmons motioned to Lowry to meet him in the hallway for a fight after both were ejected. Keith Pompey,, "Sixers' Ben Simmons displaying physicality, grit that comes from his native Australia," 11 Mar. 2018 At least, that’s what his father, Aron, told Stephanie one Halloween, motioning toward the five-year-old red Power Ranger with an overflowing bag of candy. Alex Prewitt,, "Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs Just Need Someone to Throw Them the Damn Ball," 10 Jan. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'motion.' 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 motion


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1747, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for motion


Middle English mocioun, from Anglo-French motion, from Latin motion-, motio movement, from movēre to move


see motion entry 1

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Statistics for motion

Last Updated

2 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for motion

The first known use of motion was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for motion



English Language Learners Definition of motion

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: an act or process of moving

: a movement of your body or of a part of your body

: a formal suggestion or proposal that is made at a meeting for something to be done



English Language Learners Definition of motion (Entry 2 of 2)

: to make a movement of your hand, head, etc., that tells someone to move or act in a certain way


mo·​tion | \ˈmō-shən \

Kids Definition of motion

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : an act or process of changing place or position : movement We felt the swaying motion of the train.

2 : a movement of the body or its parts … the motion of his arms was not unlike the flapping of a pair of wings.— Washington Irving, “Sleepy Hollow”

3 : a formal plan or suggestion for action offered according to the rules of a meeting She made a motion to adjourn.

Other Words from motion

motionless \-​ləs \ adjective She stood motionless.


motioned; motioning

Kids Definition of motion (Entry 2 of 2)

: to direct or signal by a movement or sign Instantly she set the bird down and motioned everyone away …— Carolyn Keene, The Double Jinx Mystery


mo·​tion | \ˈmō-shən \

Medical Definition of motion 

1 : an act, process, or instance of changing place : movement

2a : an evacuation of the bowels

b : the matter evacuated often used in plural blood in the motionsLancet

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Legal Definition of motion 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a proposal for action especially : a formal proposal made in a legislative assembly made a motion to refer the bill to committee

2a : an application made to a court or judge to obtain an order, ruling, or direction a motion to arrest judgment also : a document containing such an application

b : the initiative of a court to issue an order, ruling, or direction the court is given discretion to order a pretrial conference either on its own motion or at the request of a party— J. H. Friedenthal et al.

motion for a more definite statement

: a motion that is filed before an answer and that requests the court to order the plaintiff to clarify allegations in the complaint because the claims are so vague or ambiguous that an answer cannot reasonably be framed

motion for judgment on the pleadings

: a motion made after pleadings have been entered that requests the court to issue a judgment at that point — compare summary judgment at judgment sense 1a

Note: Under Rule 12(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, if matters outside of the pleadings are presented to the court when a motion for judgment on the pleadings is made, the motion will be treated as a motion for summary judgment.

motion in limine \-​in-​ˈli-​mə-​nē \

: a usually pretrial motion that requests the court to issue an interlocutory order which prevents an opposing party from introducing or referring to potentially irrelevant, prejudicial, or otherwise generally inadmissible evidence until the court has finally ruled on its admissibility

motion to strike

1 : a motion in a civil trial to remove from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter

2 : a motion in a criminal trial to exclude evidence from the record

motion to suppress

: a pretrial motion requesting the court to exclude evidence that was obtained illegally and especially in violation of Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment protections

omnibus motion \ˈäm-​ni-​bəs-​ \

: a motion that makes multiple requests filing an omnibus motion to dismiss and for a more definite statementDepartment of Ins. of Florida v. Coopers & Lybrand, 570 So. 2d 369 (1990)



Legal Definition of motion (Entry 2 of 2)

: move motioned for a summary judgment

History and Etymology for motion


Anglo-French, from Latin motion-, motio movement, from movēre to move

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More from Merriam-Webster on motion

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with motion

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for motion

Spanish Central: Translation of motion

Nglish: Translation of motion for Spanish Speakers

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

Comments on motion

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


the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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