Synonyms & Antonyms of motive

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 a major object of interest or concern (as in a discussion or artistic composition)
  • the principal motive of the piece was introduced in the flute section

Synonyms for motive

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Near Antonyms for motive

2 a unit of decoration that is repeated all over something (as a fabric)
  • decorated with a paisley motive

Synonyms for motive

Words Related to motive

3 something (as a belief) that serves as the basis for another thing
  • the detective felt that the first suspect didn't have any motive for committing the crime

Synonyms for motive

Words Related to motive



Synonyms & Antonyms of motive (Entry 2 of 2)

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Frequently Asked Questions About motive

How does the noun motive contrast with its synonyms?

Some common synonyms of motive are goad, impulse, incentive, inducement, and spur. While all these words 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

In what contexts can goad take the place of motive?

The synonyms goad and motive are sometimes interchangeable, but goad suggests a motive that keeps one going against one's will or desire.

thought insecurity a goad to worker efficiency

When could impulse be used to replace motive?

The meanings of impulse and motive largely overlap; however, impulse suggests a driving power arising from personal temperament or constitution.

buying on impulse

When would incentive be a good substitute for motive?

The words incentive and motive are synonyms, but do differ in nuance. Specifically, incentive applies to an external influence (such as an expected reward) inciting to action.

a bonus was offered as an incentive

When is inducement a more appropriate choice than motive?

Although the words inducement and motive have much in common, inducement suggests a motive prompted by the deliberate enticements or allurements of another.

offered a watch as an inducement to subscribe

When might spur be a better fit than motive?

In some situations, the words spur and motive are roughly equivalent. However, spur applies to a motive that stimulates the faculties or increases energy or ardor.

fear was a spur to action

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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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Cite this Entry

“Motive.” Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2021.

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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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