mo·​ti·​va·​tion | \ ˌmō-tə-ˈvā-shən How to pronounce motivation (audio) \

Definition of motivation

1a : the act or process of motivating Some students need motivation to help them through school.
b : the condition of being motivated employees who lack motivation
2 : a motivating force, stimulus, or influence : incentive, drive the Old Testament heroes added religious motivation to the waging of war— Richard Humble The fear of failure was the motivation for his achievements.

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from motivation

motivational \ ˌmō-​tə-​ˈvā-​shnəl How to pronounce motivational (audio) , -​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective
motivationally adverb

Examples of motivation in a Sentence

Some students need motivation to help them through school. Many people have questioned her motivations in choosing to run for office at this time.

Recent Examples on the Web

What is the motivation behind setting up an award for librarians? Manavi Kapur, Quartz India, "One woman is transforming libraries to make lifelong readers out of Indian children," 9 Aug. 2019 Newly released court documents obtained by the New York Times seem to suggest that the motivation behind the killings may have a bitter breakup. Fox News, "Colombian au pair, 26, killed by ex-boyfriend after breaking up with him hours before: report," 6 Aug. 2019 Whatever the motivations, the new tariffs are sure to slow growth not just in the US, but around the world. Oliver Staley, Quartz, "Trump announces a new 10% tariff on billions of dollars worth of Chinese imports," 1 Aug. 2019 Wochit, Wochit For Howard Eisley, the motivation behind his decision to leave his job as an NBA assistant coach to join the Michigan basketball staff came down to one thing: mentorship. Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press, "Howard Eisley's career comes 'full circle' with Michigan basketball assistant job," 26 July 2019 As for the motivation, Mickelson hasn’t lacked that. Doug Ferguson,, "Phil Mickelson awarded for 25 straight years in top 50," 16 July 2019 Teaching a seal to sing is undoubtedly cool, but there’s scientific motivations behind the exercise as well. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Listen to a Seal Sing the Star Wars Theme and ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’," 25 June 2019 After the war, Smith wrote a series of articles for the Saturday Evening Post describing the motivations behind the actions of the Allies during the war. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "How the moon played a crucial role during the D-Day invasion," 6 June 2019 Meaningful is the word to describe the motivation behind the Swarovski Fashion Accessories Grand Prize, presided over by jewelry designer Charlotte Chesnais. Tiziana Cardini, Vogue, "The Festival d’Hyères’s Top Prize Goes to a Young Austrian Whose Focus Is Upcycling," 29 Apr. 2019

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

1873, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about motivation

Dictionary Entries near motivation







motive power

Statistics for motivation

Last Updated

15 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for motivation

The first known use of motivation was in 1873

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for motivation



English Language Learners Definition of motivation

: the act or process of giving someone a reason for doing something : the act or process of motivating someone
: the condition of being eager to act or work : the condition of being motivated
: a force or influence that causes someone to do something


mo·​ti·​va·​tion | \ ˌmōt-ə-ˈvā-shən How to pronounce motivation (audio) \

Medical Definition of motivation

1a : the act or process of motivating
b : the condition of being motivated
2 : a motivating force, stimulus, or influence (as a drive or incentive) lacks the motivation to lose weight

Other Words from motivation

motivational \ -​shnəl, -​shən-​ᵊl How to pronounce motivational (audio) \ adjective
motivationally \ -​ē How to pronounce motivationally (audio) \ adverb

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on motivation

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


not constant or steady

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Summer 2019 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a-bowl-of-peach-sorbet-with-cut-peaches-next-to-it
  • Which is a synonym of desideratum?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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