Definition of motion in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈməʊʃ(ə)n/


1 [mass noun] The action or process of moving or being moved: the laws of planetary motion a cushioned shoe that doesn’t restrict motion flowing blonde hair that was constantly in motion
More example sentences
  • Sir Isaac Newton formulated a single law of gravitation based on Kepler's three laws of planetary motion.
  • Johannes Kepler formulated the laws of planetary motion, but died in relative poverty and obscurity in 1631.
  • For Darwin, matter is not static but is constantly in motion, dynamic, so the universe itself is bursting with life, motion, energy.
movement, moving, locomotion, rise and fall, shifting, stirring, to and fro, toing and froing, coming and going;
progress, passage, passing, transit, course, flow, going, travel, travelling;
motility, mobility
1.1 [count noun] A gesture: she made a motion with her free hand
More example sentences
  • Mrs. Benson held the storm door firmly shut and smiled saccharinely at the girls while making shooing motions with her free hand.
  • Would they understand a summoning gesture as ‘come here’ or a pushing-away motion as ‘go away’?
  • In a delicate motion Maria placed her free hand on Erik's, soaking in the warmth of his skin.
gesture, gesticulation, movement, signal, sign, indication;
wave, nod;
body language, kinesics
1.2 [count noun] A piece of moving mechanism: the earliest engines had the Gresley conjugated motion for the middle cylinder
2A formal proposal put to a legislature or committee: opposition parties tabled a no-confidence motion
More example sentences
  • He would not be able to live down the embarrassment in the event of someone telephoning him, as it was he who proposed the motion at committee to ban mobiles.
  • He planned to propose a motion to City of York Council, calling on it to back the campaign.
  • Later on Tuesday, Curley made a motion to defer further consideration of the health budget until his questions could be answered.
proposal, proposition, submission, recommendation, suggestion
2.1 Law An application for a rule or order of court: often the defendant contributes to the length of proceedings by filing many procedural motions
More example sentences
  • Over the next several years, there were many motions for temporary court orders relating to custody and access.
  • On March 15, the defense had to file a motion for a court order to force the prosecution to turn over the rest of the evidence.
  • The Attorney General opposed the motion for substitution on procedural grounds.
3British An evacuation of the bowels: 73% of the patients had fewer than three bowel motions a day her mother put on her nappy for her to pass a motion
More example sentences
  • We excluded children who had had more than four bowel motions in the 24 hours before admission.
  • Symptoms include frequent bowel motions, a sense of fullness and often headache and anxiety.
  • It may also turn your urine very dark; bowel motions become pale.


[with object and adverbial of direction]
Direct or command (someone) with a movement of the hand or head: he motions her towards the lift [with object and infinitive]: he motioned the young officer to sit down
More example sentences
  • No doubt he had our best interests at heart as he motioned us towards the downward-bound funicular.
  • She acknowledged my return with a wave, motioning me to sit down at my desk.
  • A friend of Delia's, Ben Lewis, spots us and waves madly, motioning us to sit down with him.
gesture, gesticulate, signal, sign, direct, indicate;
wave, beckon, nod



go through the motions

1Do something perfunctorily, without any enthusiasm or commitment: no drive, no ambition; the team was just turning up to go through the motions
More example sentences
  • Although the Department went through the motions of investigating complaints, its commitment to enforcing the corporal punishment regulations was half-hearted at best.
  • The existential vacuum is the phenemenon which envelops those who go through the motions without feeling any passion or connection to their accomplishments.
  • It amazes me how often we find ourselves inadvertently going through the motions of achieving things, doing everything we know we're supposed or told to do, but eventually not reaching the finish line, or reaching it a bit too late.
pretend, put on an act, put it on, play-act, make believe, fake it
2Simulate an action: a child goes through the motions of washing up
More example sentences
  • He went through the motions of pretending to write out a ticket for the benefit of the other full price passengers.
  • The media initially went through the motions of pretending that this was a real election campaign.
  • I was going through the motions, faking the emotions, wriggling around like a lizard on a tin.

set in motion

Start something moving or working: the mobile of five clouds is set in motion by a little fan
More example sentences
  • Once set in motion and free of outside disturbances, the axes of these spinning globes should keep pointing in the same direction.
  • This setup allows the wheel to be set in motion once the axle starts to turn.
  • Once set in motion by the Creator they continued by their own inexorable internal logic.
2.1Start or trigger a process or series of events: plunging oil prices set in motion an economic collapse
More example sentences
  • He dialled 911 and a bizarre series of events was set in motion.
  • When the bank moves in to foreclose, she decides to double-cross the duo, setting in motion a series of events which spiral out of control.
  • But then the education minister of the time, Thomas Wells, resigned, setting in motion a series of events that changed everything.
start, begin, activate, institute, initiate, launch, get under way, get going, get in operation, get working/functioning, get off the ground, start/get/set the ball rolling;
trigger off, set off, spark off, generate, cause, bring about
formal commence



Example sentences
  • Molecular dynamics techniques are simulations, but are capable of providing detailed insight into the motions that occur during molecular recognition and how motional properties of biomolecules change upon binding.
  • The English construction with fronted motional adverbial - Along came Jones, There goes the neighborhood, Into the valley of death rode the four hundred - has been studied for a long time.
  • At lower temperatures, with increasing dehydration, lipids gradually lose all remaining degrees of motional freedom, and spectra become very broad and unresolved.


Late Middle English: via Old French from Latin motio(n-), from movere 'to move'.

Words that rhyme with motion

commotion, devotion, emotion, groschen, Laotian, locomotion, lotion, notion, Nova Scotian, ocean, potion, promotion

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: mo¦tion

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