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

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 The motive was to stay home, stay healthy and focus on his favorite surface—but in his first tournament back, at Rome in September, he was thumped in straight sets in the quarters by Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman. Jason Gay, WSJ, "Rafael Nadal Always Has Paris—Even in a Bizarre Sports 2020," 11 Oct. 2020 The motive for expanding the court is wholly understandable. Steve Chapman, chicagotribune.com, "Column: Democrats should reject court-packing," 9 Oct. 2020 No information was immediately provided about the man's identity, a suspect or motive. Katelyn Umholtz | Staff Writer, NOLA.com, "Man found shot to death on St. Claude sidewalk, New Orleans police say," 16 Sep. 2020 Investigators have yet to identify a suspect or a possible motive, officials said. Madeline Ackley, The Arizona Republic, "Man in critical condition after shooting at Super 8 Motel near I-17 and Northern Avenue," 13 Sep. 2020 Police have not identified a suspect or a possible motive yet. Carol Robinson | Crobinson@al.com, al, "Man fatally shot while driving on I-65 in Birmingham," 10 Aug. 2020 Police did not release the identity of the victims, their conditions, any suspects or a possible motive. Staff Report, NOLA.com, "4 men shot in New Orleans' Central Business District; NOPD investigating," 2 Oct. 2020 Police are still searching for a suspect and a motive in the slaying, which occurred near Hunters Woods Elementary School. Justin Jouvenal, Washington Post, "Police identify woman fatally shot in Reston in mid-September," 2 Oct. 2020 No information regarding a possible suspect or motive has been released by police. Bill Rabinowitz, USA TODAY, "Ohio State defensive lineman Haskell Garrett to be released from hospital after shooting," 31 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Police continued to investigate the shooting, including a motive and suspect description, according to Cox. Chelsea Curtis, The Arizona Republic, "Phoenix shooting sends 1 to hospital in extremely critical condition," 11 Oct. 2020 Details on suspect and motive were not immediately released. Katelyn Umholtz, NOLA.com, "2 men injured in Central City shooting, New Orleans police say," 30 Sep. 2020 Turbines 1, 3, 4 and 6 were available for service as of Friday, as were all five electro-motive diesel generators and all five frequency changers. Della Hasselle | Staff Writer, NOLA.com, "97 of 99 drainage pumps ready for tropical storm, New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board says," 12 Sep. 2020 Rivarde said there's no suspect or motive information available as of Sunday morning. Emma Discher, NOLA.com, "Man shot multiple times, killed in Terrytown overnight, JPSO says," 23 Aug. 2020 Police had partial information about a suspect but didn't plan to release details about the suspect or a possible motive Sunday evening, Campbell said. CBS News, "Apparent drive-by shooting wounds 9 at family gathering in park," 10 Aug. 2020 The motive and exact sequence of events surrounding the shooting, which happened near basketball courts, is still under investigation, according to the Herald Leader. Benjamin Vanhoose, PEOPLE.com, "7 People Wounded in Kentucky Shooting Near Community Basketball Courts: Reports," 31 Aug. 2020 There was no motive or suspect information as of Saturday afternoon, the outlet reported. Dallas News, "Dallas police investigating after Deep Ellum shooting," 22 Aug. 2020 What if women were not just abstract objects to possess, but people with their own agency and motive force and career goals? Vivian Shaw, Washington Post, "‘By Force Alone’ is an exciting and wickedly funny reimagining of the King Arthur legend," 21 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The coming together of both aspects of his game has also led him to become more vocal on the court, both to keep himself motivated and to motive others. oregonlive, "Carmelo Anthony and Gary Trent Jr. coming up huge for Portland Trail Blazers’ during playoff push," 5 Aug. 2020 Defense attorneys tried to get those allegations blocked by the court, but U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan ruled the allegations were relevant to whether campaign money was spent illegally and spoke to motive and intent. Arkansas Online, "U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter says he will plead guilty to corruption charges," 2 Dec. 2019 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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Time Traveler for motive

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for motive

Last Updated

21 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Motive.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/motive. Accessed 24 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for motive

motive

noun
How to pronounce motive (audio) How to pronounce motive (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of motive

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a reason for doing something

motive

adjective
How to pronounce motive (audio)

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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Comments on motive

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