Your reason for doing something is your motive. Your motive to go to school every day is to learn. Or maybe the thought of your parents' anger and a run-in with the truant officer is motive enough.

The word motive comes from the Latin words motivus, meaning moving, and movere, meaning to move. Think of motive as the thing that moves you to act. You often hear of motive in the context of crime––a suspect’s fingerprints may be on the murder weapon, but a detective won’t understand the crime until he understands the motive. What made the killer act?

Definitions of motive
  1. noun
    the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and direction to behavior
    “he acted with the best of motives
    synonyms: motivation, need
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    a motive for living
    rational motive
    a motive that can be defended by reasoning or logical argument
    irrational motive
    a motivation that is inconsistent with reason or logic
    impulse, urge
    an instinctive motive
    ethical motive, ethics, morality, morals
    motivation based on ideas of right and wrong
    mental energy, psychic energy
    an actuating force or factor
    ground, reason
    a rational motive for a belief or action
    incentive, inducement, motivator
    a positive motivational influence
    deterrence, disincentive
    a negative motivational influence
    (psychology) an urge to withdraw or avoid a situation or an object
    (psychology) an urge to accept or approach a situation or an object
    Thanatos, death instinct, death wish
    (psychoanalysis) an unconscious urge to die
    irrational impulse
    a strong spontaneous and irrational motivation
    cacoethes, mania, passion
    an irrational but irresistible motive for a belief or action
    itchy feet, wanderlust
    very strong or irresistible impulse to travel
    compulsion, obsession
    an irrational motive for performing trivial or repetitive actions, even against your will
    the pursuit of pleasure as a matter of ethical principle
    conscience, moral sense, scruples, sense of right and wrong
    motivation deriving logically from ethical or moral principles that govern a person's thoughts and actions
    Christ Within, Inner Light, Light, Light Within
    a divine presence believed by Quakers to enlighten and guide the soul
    incitation, incitement, provocation
    something that incites or provokes; a means of arousing or stirring to action
    libidinal energy
    (psychoanalysis) psychic energy produced by the libido
    type of:
    psychological feature
    a feature of the mental life of a living organism
  2. adjective
    causing or able to cause motion
    “a motive force”
    motive power”
    synonyms: motor
    producing an effect
  3. adjective
    impelling to action
    motive pleas”
    synonyms: motivating, motivative
    producing an effect
  4. noun
    a theme that is repeated or elaborated in a piece of music
    synonyms: motif
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    obbligato, obligato
    a persistent but subordinate motif
    type of:
    idea, melodic theme, musical theme, theme
    (music) melodic subject of a musical composition
  5. noun
    a design or figure that consists of recurring shapes or colors, as in architecture or decoration
    synonyms: motif
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    type of:
    design, figure, pattern
    a decorative or artistic work
DISCLAIMER: These example sentences appear in various news sources and books to reflect the usage of the word ‘motive'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of or its editors. Send us feedback
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