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 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 Police said in a statement Tuesday that a motive has not yet been determined and told local media that officers are still investigating to determine whether hate crime charges should be brought in the case. Washington Post, "'Disgusting and horrific’ stabbing at San Francisco bus stop seriously injures two Asian women," 5 May 2021 Police said in a statement Tuesday that a motive has not yet been determined and told local media that officers are still investigating to determine whether hate crime charges should be brought in the case. BostonGlobe.com, "‘Disgusting and horrific’ stabbing at San Francisco bus stop seriously injures two Asian women," 5 May 2021 The investigation into the double homicide on March 16 at the Roundy's Distribution Center in Oconomowoc has closed without a clear motive, but it is now known that the shooter targeted both of his victims. Evan Frank, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The man who fatally shot two others at Roundy's Distribution Center targeted his victims, a sheriff's department official says," 4 May 2021 Powell's main motive to come back was to get rid of the bad taste that the 2019 championship loss to the Sioux Falls Storm left him with. Richard Obert, The Arizona Republic, "Arizona Rattlers open camp ready to pursue return to IFL championship game," 3 May 2021 The narrator’s cool analysis of motive (informed by Swann’s retrospective regrets) reveals that Swann has merely projected his obsessions onto Odette. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "What We Find When We Get Lost in Proust," 3 May 2021 Corey declined to confirm whether a motive had been established. Danielle Wallace, Fox News, "NYC man charged with hate crime in vandalism spree at synagogues," 2 May 2021 Authorities said that investigators are currently in the process of gathering evidence and information to identify both the suspect and the motive behind the shooting. Jon Haworth, ABC News, "1 dead, 6 injured in late night shooting near French Quarter in New Orleans," 2 May 2021 The Jazz’s motive to commit the crime is certainly not iron-clad. Andy Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, "The Triple Team: Did the Jazz go all-out to win vs. Phoenix? Arguments can be made for both sides," 30 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Mobile police have not released any information in the case, including a motive or potential suspects. Tandra Smith | Tsmith@al.com, al, "20-year-old in critical condition after early Friday shooting in Mobile," 30 Apr. 2021 Police did not provide more information about a motive or suspect. Vanessa Arredondo, San Francisco Chronicle, "Overnight shooting and stabbing investigated in San Jose," 28 Mar. 2021 Assistant District Attorney Doug Freese said Harris had motive and opportunity to kill. Michelle Hunter | Staff Writer, NOLA.com, "Marrero double murder followed failed internet date, investigators say," 9 Dec. 2020 Cordero said the motive police have determined so far is that the suspect didn’t have a need for the dogs. Kelli Smith, Dallas News, "Dallas police arrest man they say beat 2 puppies to death," 9 Apr. 2021 Investigation into the motive and other aspects of the crime is ongoing. Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY, "A hate crime? Georgia attacks that killed mostly Asian women raises questions of bias, motive," 18 Mar. 2021 Investigators do not have a motive or suspect for the shootings. Michelle Hunter | Staff Writer, NOLA.com, "Body of missing shooting victim discovered three days later in Harvey apartment: JPSO," 3 Feb. 2021 No motive or suspect information has been released. Binghui Huang, USA TODAY, "5 people, unborn child killed in Indianapolis mass shooting," 25 Jan. 2021 There were no details about possible suspects or a motive available. Katelyn Umholtz, NOLA.com, "17-year-old boy injured in Seventh Ward in third shooting of the day: NOPD," 11 Dec. 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

7 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Motive.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/motive. Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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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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