• (RP) IPA: /ˈməʊtɪv/
  • (GA) IPA: /ˈmoʊtɪv/

motive (plural motives)

  1. (obsolete) An idea or communication that makes one want to act, especially from spiritual sources; a divine prompting. [14th-17th c.]
    • 1624, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy: […], 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 54573970 ↗, partition III, section 2, member 1, subsection ii:
      there's something in a woman beyond all human delight; a magnetic virtue, a charming quality, an occult and powerful motive.
  2. An incentive to act in a particular way; a reason or emotion that makes one want to do something; anything that prompts a choice of action. [from 15th c.]
    • 1947, Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano:
      Many of them at first seemed kind to him, but it turned out their motives were not entirely altruistic.
    Synonyms: motivation
  3. (obsolete, rare) A limb or other bodily organ that can move. [15th-17th c.]
  4. (law) Something which causes someone to want to commit a crime; a reason for criminal behaviour. [from 18th c.]
    What would his motive be for burning down the cottage?
    No-one could understand why she had hidden the shovel; her motives were obscure at best.
  5. (architecture, fine arts) A motif. [from 19th c.]
  6. (music) A motif; a theme or subject, especially one that is central to the work or often repeated. [from 19th c.]
    If you listen carefully, you can hear the flutes mimicking the cello motive.
Synonyms Translations Translations Translations
  • French: motif
  • Russian: моти́в

motive (motives, present participle motiving; past and past participle motived)

  1. (transitive) To prompt or incite by a motive or motives; to move.
    Synonyms: motivate
Translations Adjective

motive (not comparable)

  1. Causing motion; having power to move, or tending to move
    a motive argument
    motive power
    • 1658, Sir Thomas Browne, The Garden of Cyrus, Folio Society 2007, p. 195:
      In the motive parts of animals may be discovered mutuall proportions; not only in those of Quadrupeds, but in the thigh-bone, legge, foot-bone, and claws of Birds.
    Synonyms: moving
  2. Relating to motion and/or to its cause
    Synonyms: motional
Translations Translations

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