motive

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

Essential Meaning of motive

: a reason for doing something 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. See More ExamplesShe denied that her offer to help was based on selfish motives. hidden/ulterior motives making decisions based on the profit motive [=the desire to make a profit]Hide

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

Synonyms for motive

Synonyms: Noun

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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 Neither have a motive to relieve the energy crunch, not with fossil fuels under attack by Brussels and Washington in the run-up to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow later this month. Dan Eberhart, Forbes, 19 Oct. 2021 Scherer had another motive for ending jury selection early. Rafael Olmeda, sun-sentinel.com, 6 Oct. 2021 Martin had the motive to kill Calvin Phillips because a conviction in the court-martial could have ended his 30-year military career. Andrew Wolfson, The Courier-Journal, 2 Sep. 2021 The killer has a motive and the violence has a logic. Noah Berlatsky, Los Angeles Times, 30 Aug. 2021 Today, the Taliban will depend on foreign donor assistance to run the country, and may have a motive not to alienate the international community. BostonGlobe.com, 24 Aug. 2021 Jones had another motive, too: Contributors automatically became members of the society, instantly diversifying their ranks. Author: Jeanette Marantos, Anchorage Daily News, 8 Aug. 2021 Garfield Heights police Chief Mark Kaye said Wednesday that the department does not yet have a motive for the killing. Kaylee Remington, cleveland, 28 July 2021 Recently, Tucker Carlson suggested that climate scientists had an ulterior motive: shrinking your children. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 7 July 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective It is not known if there was a motive or intent behind the fire. Salma Reyes, The Arizona Republic, 15 Oct. 2021 Authorities have not identified a motive or suspect in that case. Pamela Kirkland, CNN, 6 Oct. 2021 Police and Barrett have not discussed a motive publicly. Elliot Hughes, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 5 Oct. 2021 Police have not said how Rojas died and are still investigating motive. Kc Baker, PEOPLE.com, 22 July 2021 Police called the investigation active and did not offer any information about a motive or potential suspects in the update. Alta Spells, CNN, 19 Sep. 2021 Police have not offered any motive or suspected theories as to why Tanner allegedly killed Basnight, according to NJ.com. Peter Aitken, Fox News, 4 Sep. 2021 No further information about the motive or suspect has been released. Staff Report, NOLA.com, 30 Jan. 2021 Its motive feels questionable, like transactional flattery. Todd Levin, New York Times, 3 Aug. 2021 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, 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, 2 Dec. 2019 Police did not immediately offer information as to motive or suspect description. Keri Blakinger, Houston Chronicle, 21 Jan. 2018 Of course, with all reports like this, speculation as to motive for such stories must be questioned. Mark Heim, AL.com, 12 Oct. 2017 My photography is first and foremost a catalyst or reason to motive human action. Olivier Laurent, Time, 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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Dictionary Entries Near motive

motivator

motive

motive power

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Statistics for motive

Last Updated

22 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Motive.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/motive. Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for motive

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

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

More from Merriam-Webster on motive

Nglish: Translation of motive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of motive for Arabic Speakers

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