mo·​ti·​va·​tion | \ˌmō-tə-ˈvā-shən \

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.

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Other Words from motivation

motivational \-​shnəl, -​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

The editorial also questioned the motivation of Lewis and his colleagues, several of whom were associated with the University of Pennsylvania and therefore had a vested interest in defending Morton's science as being free from bias. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "There’s new evidence confirming bias of the “father of scientific racism”," 4 Oct. 2018 As motivation to lose the weight, June appears to sign herself up for a mother-daughter pageant with Alana in the upcoming season. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Honey Boo Boo and Mama June Had a Major Twinning Moment Together This Week," 12 June 2018 The city’s decision cited cost savings as the motivation to close the court, though McDermott was critical of Pence’s decision to appoint Jorgensen, a former chairwoman of the St. John Republican Committee, to preside over the city court. Craig Lyons, Post-Tribune, "Hammond pushes City Court closure to 2019," 30 May 2018 The former presidential candidate cited Whitehouse’s 46 percent approval rating and Bernie Sanders’s 2016 primary win in the state as motivation to enter the race. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: Michael Cohen will take the Fifth. Trump has said innocent people don’t do that.," 26 Apr. 2018 Hamilton used that moment as motivation, transforming his body, becoming a team captain and breaking Penn State's receptions record just five games into his senior season. Jourdan Rodrigue, charlotteobserver, "Perfect receiver for Carolina Panthers exists in NFL draft ... in the middle rounds | Charlotte Observer," 23 Apr. 2018 This climate of fear was accented by a string of terror attacks leading up to the elections, many with racist motivations. Bree Newsome, SELF, "The 2018 Midterm Elections Proved That Change Must Happen from the Ground Up," 15 Nov. 2018 There were 15 murders, 23 rapes and 990 aggravated assaults nationally with a hate-crime motivation, according to the FBI. Ryan Blethen, The Seattle Times, "Hate crimes skyrocket across the nation, almost double in Seattle over the past year," 13 Nov. 2018 The White House didn’t try to conceal the cynical political motivations at work. Aaron Rupar, Vox, "Fox News barely mentions caravan first morning after midterms," 7 Nov. 2018

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.

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First Known Use of motivation

1873, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Last Updated

5 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for motivation

The first known use of motivation was in 1873

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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 \

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 \ adjective
motivationally \-​ē \ adverb

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