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

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 for the incident is unknown, as is the time of death for both Corea and Mejia, police said. James Whitlow, baltimoresun.com, "Harford sheriff’s office investigating apparent murder-suicide in Edgewood," 18 Nov. 2020 The source said the motive is unclear and it is being investigated. CBS News, "Congresswoman "devastated" after neighbor found dead following shooting," 17 Nov. 2020 The motive was not immediately clear; police and the FBI are investigating. NBC News, "Florida's decision to vaccinate seniors first causes distribution 'chaos'," 31 Dec. 2020 The motive in the shooting is unclear and he later was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Greg Norman, Fox News, "Philadelphia nearing homicide record as 2020 comes to a close, report says," 31 Dec. 2020 The men did not know each other before sharing a room at the hospital and a motive is not immediately clear. Washington Post, "Covid-19 patient killed by hospital roommate who hit him with an oxygen tank for praying, California police say," 24 Dec. 2020 Houser did not return a message seeking what the relationship is between Carr and Howard and what the motive was for the crime. Kaylee Remington, cleveland, "Man charged with murder in death of 22-year-old Euclid woman, police say," 18 Dec. 2020 Nigerian authorities said the motive for the attack is unclear, but added the area has seen kidnappings for ransom attacks in the past. Isaac Abrak And David Mckenzie, CNN, "More than 300 students still unaccounted for after Nigerian school raid," 14 Dec. 2020 DeSantis said the motive of state officials wasn’t to intimidate but to protect. al, "Rebekah Jones: Florida COVID dashboard whistleblower’s home raided," 13 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Investigators don't have a motive or suspect information, according to Rivarde. Michelle Hunter, NOLA.com, "Man shot multiple times, found dead inside Marrero home Monday morning: JPSO," 23 Nov. 2020 This list can now provide a motive force for your efforts. Cal Newport, The New Yorker, "The Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done," 17 Nov. 2020 Her investigation – and this book – extends the story to encompass several other suspects who had motive and opportunity, the role of DNA research breakthroughs and a number of other women whose lives were ended by violence. Emily Gray Tedrowe, USA TODAY, "Review: 'We Keep The Dead Close' a compelling portrait of a woman's life cut short," 6 Nov. 2020 Officers were working to identify a motive and suspect description as of late morning Wednesday. Brieanna J. Frank, The Arizona Republic, "Man killed in shooting near Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix," 4 Nov. 2020 Such incidents are often marked by an altercation, flags or bumper stickers indicating motive or swerving maneuvers made precisely in order to hit protesters, Jenkins said. Madeline Holcombe, CNN, "Drivers struck street protesters dozens of times this summer as memes of vehicle attacks circulated, researchers say," 21 Oct. 2020 It is often said that crime is where motive and means meets opportunity. James Stavridis, The Economist, "James Stavridis on global order amid potential election chaos," 21 Oct. 2020 Police did not immediately identify a motive or suspect. Katelyn Umholtz, NOLA.com, "Man wounded in shooting in Plum Orchard area, New Orleans police say," 20 Oct. 2020 But Pappas says there was one person who was close to Jon and may well have had motive to kill him. Richard Schlesinger, CBS News, ""Please help him": Police body cameras show what happened after Texas man was killed," 10 Oct. 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

19 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Motive.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/motive. Accessed 19 Jan. 2021.

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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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