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motive Line breaks: mo¦tive
Pronunciation: /ˈməʊtɪv/

Definition of motive in English:


1A reason for doing something: police were unable to establish a motive for his murder
More example sentences
  • There's an ulterior motive behind everything they do.
  • When someone offers you help, must you seek out an ulterior motive behind the gesture?
  • The key ethical and legal point is the intention - the motive behind the act.
reason, motivation, motivating force, rationale, grounds, cause, basis, occasion, thinking, the whys and wherefores, object, purpose, intention, design;
incentive, inducement, impulse, incitement, influence, lure, inspiration, stimulus, stimulation, spur, goad, provocation, pressure, persuasion, consideration
2A motif in art, literature, or music.
Example sentences
  • Then think about the grail motive as a background to the Bruckner Adagio.
  • To cultivate this process, the student should become acquainted with the motive upon which the composition is based.
  • This is the predominant trichord of most sets and functions as a signature motive.
motif, theme, idea, concept, subject, topic, leitmotif, trope, element


[attributive] Back to top  
1Producing physical or mechanical motion: the charge of gas is the motive force for every piston stroke
More example sentences
  • The change of motion is proportional to the motive force impressed; and is made in the direction of the straight line in which that force is impressed.
  • With the invention of the internal combustion engine, in the late 19th century, new possibilities of motive force became available.
  • It may be powered by hand, pedal, or some other motive force such as a suitably geared lawn mower engine or the electric motor taken from a discarded washing machine.
2Causing or being the reason for something: the motive principle of a writer’s work
More example sentences
  • Its motive force is protection and care, but it does not give enough space to personal liberty.
  • Fascists themselves claimed that ultranationalism was their motive force, and that the realization of the mobilized national community was their goal.
  • Rather, it's the essential motive force for a technologically vibrant economy.


Pronunciation: /ˈməʊtɪvləs/
Example sentences
  • A spokesman said: ‘This totally unprovoked and motiveless assault was a terrifying ordeal for the young man who had just finished work and was making his way home.’
  • He grabbed her by the shoulder and head-butted her in a motiveless and unprovoked attack.
  • He said: ‘This was a random and motiveless attack on a defenceless man.’
Pronunciation: /məʊˈtɪvɪti/
Example sentences
  • Among the gaseous fuels, this has the best motivity factor.
  • The lost motivity is essentially not restorable otherwise than by an agency dealing with individual atoms; and the mode of dealing with the atoms to restore motivity is essentially a process of assortment, sending this way all of one kind or class, that way all of another kind or class.


Late Middle English: from Old French motif (adjective used as a noun), from late Latin motivus, from movere 'to move'.

Words that rhyme with motive

emotive, votive
Definition of motive in:
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