in·​cen·​tive | \ in-ˈsen-tiv How to pronounce incentive (audio) \

Essential Meaning of incentive

: something that encourages a person to do something or to work harder Our salespeople are given financial incentives for reaching their quotas. [=if they reach their quotas they are paid more money] The rising cost of electricity provides a strong/powerful incentive to conserve energy. See More ExamplesThe government offers special tax incentives for entrepreneurs. The company is offering a special low price as an added incentive for new customers. employees who lack incentiveHide

Full Definition of incentive

: something that incites or has a tendency to incite to determination or action

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Other Words from incentive

incentive adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for incentive

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 incentive in a Sentence

The rising cost of electricity provides a strong incentive to conserve energy. The government offers special tax incentives for entrepreneurs. The company is offering a special low price as an added incentive for new customers.
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Recent Examples on the Web The state shifted its focus to the TEAMS incentive, which aims to retain math and science teachers. al, 6 Oct. 2021 Without difficulty, there’s no incentive to change or grow. Francis Hellyer, Rolling Stone, 4 Oct. 2021 Authenticating users through phone numbers means there’s an incentive for hackers to collect that information and log into services—particularly those that require two-factor authentication—on behalf of victims. Cecilia D'anastasio, Wired, 29 Sep. 2021 And there’s a great incentive to break multiverse rules to do it. Chris Smith, BGR, 25 Sep. 2021 Dallas County residents who receive their first or second shot will get an incentive: $20 in food and ride coupons. Sarah Blaskovich, Dallas News, 22 Sep. 2021 The $1,000 vaccine incentive by Whirlpool matches one launched earlier this summer by Vanguard, one of the world's largest asset managers. Matt Egan, CNN, 13 Sep. 2021 The board of trustees approved a vaccination incentive — first prize of $50,000 — for tribal members and employees. oregonlive, 6 Sep. 2021 So, there’s more incentive for colleges to increase discounts and student aid to attract lower income and first generation students. Michelle Cheng, Quartz, 23 Aug. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'incentive.' 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 incentive

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for incentive

Middle English, from Late Latin incentivum, from neuter of incentivus stimulating, from Latin, setting the tune, from incentus, past participle of incinere to play (a tune), from in- + canere to sing — more at chant

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Time Traveler for incentive

Time Traveler

The first known use of incentive was in the 15th century

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Dictionary Entries Near incentive



incentive wage

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Statistics for incentive

Last Updated

13 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Incentive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for incentive


in·​cen·​tive | \ in-ˈsen-tiv How to pronounce incentive (audio) \

Kids Definition of incentive

: something that makes a person try or work hard or harder Longer recess was an incentive to finish our work.

More from Merriam-Webster on incentive

Nglish: Translation of incentive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of incentive for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about incentive


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