motive

noun
mo·​tive | \ˈmō-tiv, sense 2 is also mō-ˈtēv \

Definition of motive 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1 : something (such as a need or desire) that causes a person to act Revenge was the murderer's motive.

2 : a recurrent phrase or figure that is developed through the course of a musical composition

3 : motif the composition's recurring flute motive

motive

adjective
mo·​tive | \ˈmō-tiv \

Definition of motive (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : of or relating to motion or the causing of motion motive energy

2 : moving or tending to move to action

motive

verb
mo·​tive | \ˈmō-tiv \
motived; motiving

Definition of motive (Entry 3 of 3)

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Other Words from motive

Noun

motiveless \ -​ləs \ adjective
motivelessly adverb
motivic \ mō-​ˈtē-​vik \ adjective

Synonyms for motive

Synonyms: Noun

content, matter, motif, question, subject, theme, topic

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Choose the Right Synonym for motive

Noun

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 motive in a Sentence

Noun

Their motive in running away was to avoid being punished. I think he's guilty of the crime. He had the motive, the means, and the opportunity. She denied that her offer to help was based on selfish motives.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

During the trial, Dominick Hursey’s attorney, Margaret Mead, said her client had no motive to kill Chinika Hursey and said the two had resolved many of their differences. Pamela Wood, baltimoresun.com, "Baltimore County man sentenced to life in prison in killing of ex-wife and her boyfriend," 10 July 2018 The Kremlin also had a motive: Sergei Skripal was a member of a Russian intelligence service, known as the GRU, who was convicted in 2006 of handing over the names of 300 Russian agents to the British. Madeleine Ngo, Vox, "A British couple was poisoned with a lethal toxin. The UK is blaming Russia.," 5 July 2018 The police did not yet have a suspected motive for the Saturday night attack but said a 30-year-old man was in custody. NBC News, "Boise stabbing: 9 injured in attack at Idaho apartment complex," 1 July 2018 The police did not yet have a suspected motive for the Saturday night attack but said a 30-year-old man was in custody. Fox News, "The Latest: Idaho mass stabbing victim flown to Utah," 1 July 2018 Investigators don't have a motive, and no arrests have been made. Anchorage Daily News, "Authorities: Rapper XXXTentacion shot dead in Florida," 19 June 2018 Officials still don’t have a motive for her killing or know the identity of the second man seen with her before her death. Joshua Sharpe, ajc, "Inside the alleged DeKalb gang killing spree that took five lives," 8 June 2018 This time, an 11-year-old boy (Elisha Henig) has murdered his own parents and has no motive. Breanne L. Heldman, PEOPLE.com, "Jessica Biel's The Sinner Season 2 Sets August Premiere Date," 31 May 2018 Investigators don't have a motive for the shooting, Sheriff Mike Tregre said. Littice Bacon-blood, NOLA.com, "Man shot and killed while riding motorcycle in LaPlace," 21 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Two days after the shooting Micah Johnson found motive to ambush police office in Dallas during a peaceful protest. Mark Berman, Washington Post, "Baton Rouge police release video showing fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, plan to fire one officer," 30 Mar. 2018 Detectives have not motive or suspects in the killings. Michelle Hunter, NOLA.com, "Family to hold vigil Wednesday for Marrero double murder victim," 25 Oct. 2017 They were not identified, and no suspect or motive information was released. baltimoresun.com, "2 teens shot in Northeast Baltimore," 29 Aug. 2017 On the Transit, defective flexible coupling could cause separation of the drive shaft, cutting off motive power, causing the vehicle to move while parked or damaging surrounding parts. Nathan Bomey, USA TODAY, "Ford Transit recalled: Drive shaft defect costs $142 million," 28 June 2017 Dale’s absence and the threat of visitors in my home gave me motive and opportunity to clean. Gayle Carline, Orange County Register, "What a Day: It’s never too early for spring cleaning," 20 Jan. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Police did not immediately offer information as to motive or suspect description. Keri Blakinger, Houston Chronicle, "Man beaten, stabbed after argument in Alief," 21 Jan. 2018 Of course, with all reports like this, speculation as to motive for such stories must be questioned. Mark Heim, AL.com, "Penn State preparing for Texas A&M to make run at James Franklin, per report," 12 Oct. 2017 My photography is first and foremost a catalyst or reason to motive human action. Olivier Laurent, Time, "Why We Do It: Photographers and Photo Editors on the Passion That Drives Their Work," 30 June 2017

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

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1657, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for motive

Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French motif, motive, from motif, adjective, moving, from Medieval Latin motivus, from Latin motus, past participle of movēre to move

Adjective

Middle French or Medieval Latin; Middle French motif, from Medieval Latin motivus

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Statistics for motive

Last Updated

9 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for motive

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

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More Definitions for motive

motive

noun

English Language Learners Definition of motive

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a reason for doing something

motive

adjective

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

: of, relating to, or causing motion

motive

noun
mo·​tive | \ˈmō-tiv \

Kids Definition of motive

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a reason for doing something

motive

adjective

Kids Definition of motive (Entry 2 of 2)

: causing motion motive power

motive

noun
mo·​tive | \ˈmōt-iv \

Medical Definition of motive 

: something (as a need or desire) that causes a person to act

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motive

noun
mo·​tive

Legal Definition of motive 

: something (as a need or desire) that causes a person to act

Note: Motive is distinguished from intent or mens rea. Although motive is not an element of a crime, evidence of motive can be introduced to help establish intent.

History and Etymology for motive

Anglo-French motif, from Middle French motif adjective, moving, from Medieval Latin motivus, from Latin motus, past participle of movēre to move

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Comments on motive

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