motive

noun
mo·​tive | \ ˈmō-tiv How to pronounce motive (audio) , sense 2 is also mō-ˈtēv How to pronounce motive (audio) \

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 How to pronounce motive (audio) \

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 How to pronounce motive (audio) \
motived; motiving

Definition of motive (Entry 3 of 3)

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Other Words from motive

Noun

motiveless \ -​ləs How to pronounce motiveless (audio) \ adjective
motivelessly adverb
motivic \ mō-​ˈtē-​vik How to pronounce motivic (audio) \ 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

Officials did not immediately identify the suspect and were investigating a possible a motive for the attack. Paulina Dedaj, Fox News, "New York City woman stabs five, including three newborns, at unlicensed daycare center," 21 Sep. 2018 The motive is always do no harm; your job is to tell the truth, and document what’s happening. Michon Boston, New York Times, "A Director Looks for Beauty in Her Home’s Opioid Struggle," 29 June 2018 Bruchey said deputies are still investigating a possible motive. David Harris, OrlandoSentinel.com, "15-year-old boy beaten to death with baseball bat in Polk County, deputies say," 20 Mar. 2018 Police are investigating a motive and any possible relationship with the gunman and the victims. Essence.com, "A Maryland High School Just Experienced A Shooting Less Than A Week After A National Gun Violence Walk Out," 20 Mar. 2018 President Trump has made reducing refugee admissions a key focus since taking office, citing national security concerns as the primary motive. Jessica Donati, WSJ, "U.S. to Cap Refugee Admissions at 30,000 in 2019, Pompeo Says," 17 Sep. 2018 Police did not disclose a motive for the violent killings or say what was taken during the robbery. Robert Moran, Philly.com, "Woman arrested in beating deaths of mother, grandmother in Ventnor," 11 July 2018 Chris Bergner said homophobia has not come up as a motive in the investigation. Richard Winton, latimes.com, "Sheriff's investigators arrest mother's boyfriend in death of 10-year-old Lancaster boy," 28 June 2018 The two players also claimed reasonable cause as the motive behind this decision. SI.com, "The Exodus Continues: Rodrigo Battaglia Becomes Latest Player to Terminate Contract With Sporting CP," 14 June 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

16 Mar 2019

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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)

technical : of, relating to, or causing motion

motive

noun
mo·​tive | \ ˈmō-tiv How to pronounce motive (audio) \

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 How to pronounce motive (audio) \

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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More from Merriam-Webster on motive

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with motive

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for motive

Spanish Central: Translation of motive

Nglish: Translation of motive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of motive for Arabic Speakers

Comments on motive

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