motive

noun
mo·tive | \ˈmō-tiv, sense 2 is also mō-ˈtēv \

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 \

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 \
motived; motiving

Definition of motive (Entry 3 of 3)

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Other Words from motive

Noun

motiveless \-ləs \ adjective
motivelessly adverb
motivic \mō-ˈtē-vik \ adjective

Synonyms for motive

Synonyms: Noun

content, matter, motif, question, subject, theme, topic

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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

Prices range from around a hundred into the thousands, depending on the motive and level of craftsmanship. Max Maeckler, Vogue, "The Martha’s Vineyard of Germany Is Vanishing Into the Sea," 25 June 2018 Police are seeking a suspect and working to determine a motive, the release said. D. Kwas, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee man shot to death on south side identified," 5 Mar. 2018 Police have not described a possible motive for Roosevelt Bernard’s killing, which happened in the 2900 block of Washington Street. Linda Trischitta, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Grand jury indicts man on murder charge in death of his unborn child," 4 July 2018 Police did not release details on a possible motive for Radford killing Mari. Alexis Stevens, ajc, "Hours after his divorce is final, man accused of killing ex-wife’s attorney, himself," 21 June 2018 There was no immediate word about a possible motive or a description of the gunman. Carlie Kollath Wells, NOLA.com, "Dad, 4-year-old daughter killed in LaPlace shooting, sheriff says," 30 May 2018 Milwaukee police confirmed a missing 15-year-old boy was the victim of a homicide Monday, but have not released how he was killed or a possible motive. Ashley Luthern, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee police confirm missing 15-year-old boy was homicide victim," 21 May 2018 The mother of one of the 10 people killed at a Texas high school said her daughter recently rejected the romantic advances of the 17-year-old charged in the shootings, a possible motive for the violent tragedy. BostonGlobe.com, "Mother of victim suggests motive for Texas school shooting," 20 May 2018 A few months later, people who suspect the worst about Trump and his minions learned a possible motive that was almost too cynical to comprehend. Will Bunch, Philly.com, "How the Trump family sold U.S. foreign policy to the highest bidder | Will Bunch," 20 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Two days after the shooting Micah Johnson found motive to ambush police office in Dallas during a peaceful protest. Mark Berman, Washington Post, "Baton Rouge police release video showing fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, plan to fire one officer," 30 Mar. 2018 Detectives have not motive or suspects in the killings. Michelle Hunter, NOLA.com, "Family to hold vigil Wednesday for Marrero double murder victim," 25 Oct. 2017 They were not identified, and no suspect or motive information was released. baltimoresun.com, "2 teens shot in Northeast Baltimore," 29 Aug. 2017 On the Transit, defective flexible coupling could cause separation of the drive shaft, cutting off motive power, causing the vehicle to move while parked or damaging surrounding parts. Nathan Bomey, USA TODAY, "Ford Transit recalled: Drive shaft defect costs $142 million," 28 June 2017 Dale’s absence and the threat of visitors in my home gave me motive and opportunity to clean. Gayle Carline, Orange County Register, "What a Day: It’s never too early for spring cleaning," 20 Jan. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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

Noun

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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Phrases Related to motive

profit motive

ulterior motive

Statistics for motive

Last Updated

12 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for motive

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

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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)

: of, relating to, or causing motion

motive

noun
mo·tive | \ˈmō-tiv \

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 \

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.

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Comments on motive

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