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.

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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

One of Rashford's international predecessors, Michael Owen, recently questioned whether the Manchester United starlet had the motivation and desire to become a leading goalscorer for both club and country., "Marcus Rashford Discusses Rivalry With Harry Kane and Reveals Who's on Penalty Duty for England," 7 Sep. 2019 Today’s stories explore the motivations driving dissent in Hong Kong, the ethics of global trade, the public scrutiny of journalists in the U.S., freedom of religion in Ukraine, and access to education in India. The Christian Science Monitor, "Giving brushoffs the brushoff," 5 Sep. 2019 Kentucky’s lawmakers intended HB 463 to reduce incarceration rates, a common motivation for using risk scores. Wired, "Algorithms Should’ve Made Courts More Fair. What Went Wrong?," 5 Sep. 2019 Skepticism of the tech industry is increasing on both ends of the political spectrum — but the parties have very different motivations for targeting tech that can often conflict. Cat Zakrzewski, Washington Post, "The Technology 202: Facebook attracts swift blowback from report on anti-conservative bias," 21 Aug. 2019 Police are questioning whether a four-page manifesto posted to the website 8chan just moments before the incident is connected to the shooter and whether the shooter had racist motivations. Michelle Iracheta, Houston Chronicle, "What we know about the suspected El Paso shooting gunman," 5 Aug. 2019 But Edward Jones' Warne suggests investors may have other motivations for moving their funds from equities to bonds. Anne Sraders, Fortune, "Droves of Investors Are Missing the Bull Market—Here’s Why," 15 July 2019 Marvel has long had a problem with bland and boring villains, who don’t seem to have believable human motivations. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "Spider-Man: Far From Home turns a class-conscious hero into a tech bro," 3 July 2019 Kim's never one to sit out on a trend (or money-making opportunity), but this launch also had a strong personal motivation behind it. Bella Cacciatore, Glamour, "We Put Kim Kardashian's New KKW Body Foundation to the Test," 29 June 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.

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First Known Use of motivation

1873, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Dictionary Entries near motivation







motive power

Statistics for motivation

Last Updated

12 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for motivation

The first known use of motivation was in 1873

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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

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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).


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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