motive power


Definition of motive power

1 : an agency (such as water or steam) used to impart motion especially to machinery
2 : something (such as a locomotive or a motor) that provides motive power to a system

Examples of motive power in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web So was the stove and most of the engine, which was powered by gas produced from coal, though most of the motive power came from the 12,900 square feet of sail. John Kelly, Washington Post, "A truly magnetic personality: Capt. J.P. Ault and his amazing ship, the Carnegie," 14 Sep. 2019 Dethleffs says that adding electric motive power will decrease the towing demands of the camper and make handling better while driving. Megan Barber, Curbed, "Finally, a camper that could be towed by an electric car," 29 Aug. 2018 Leading British figures are Richard Trevithick, a pioneer of high-pressure steam (the steam itself creates the motive power) and George Stephenson, a genius of early locomotives. Charles R. Morris, WSJ, "‘Energy’ Review: The Path to Power," 21 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'motive power.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of motive power

1702, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about motive power

Statistics for motive power

Last Updated

27 Sep 2019

Time Traveler for motive power

The first known use of motive power was in 1702

See more words from the same year

More from Merriam-Webster on motive power

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with motive power Encyclopedia article about motive power

Comments on motive power

What made you want to look up motive power? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a calculated move

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Confusing Words—A Quiz

  • alice with tweedle dee and tweedle dum
  • I invented a brand new toaster robot and ______ it "Sir Toasts-a-Lot."
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!