AskDefine | Define motive

Dictionary Definition

motive adj
1 causing or able to cause motion; "a motive force"; "motive power"; "motor energy" [syn: motive(a), motor]
2 impelling to action; "it may well be that ethical language has primarily a motivative function"- Arthur Pap; "motive pleas"; "motivating arguments" [syn: motivative(a), motive(a), motivating]


1 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; "we did not understand his motivation"; "he acted with the best of motives" [syn: motivation, need]
2 a theme that is elaborated on in a piece of music [syn: motif]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Motive






  1. That which moves; a mover.
  2. That which incites to action; anything prompting or exciting to choice, or moving the will; cause; reason; inducement; object.
    ''When some kid sloppily wrote in the east restroom, "Mr. Angrano’s too harsh; he needs to be fired!" with permanent marker, it had to be Quentin. Even though all students’ handwriting samples didn’t match, we have a solid motive. You see, Quentin says he hates him a lot, and Mr. Angrano has been writing him up this past nine weeks, more than all of his other students. It’s the motive that incited Quentin to vandalize the restroom with his personal attack. First thing tomorrow morning, I will call Quentin into the office and ask him to write the Alphabet with his right hand, as well as the incomplete phrase, "Mr. Angrano is." He’s a lefty if anyone was wondering.''
  3. A theme or subject; a leading phrase or passage which is reproduced and varied through the course of a movement; a short figure, or melodic germ, out of which a whole movement is developed.
  4. That which produces conception, invention, or creation in the mind of the artist in undertaking his subject; the guiding or controlling idea manifested in a work of art, or any part of one.


  • Finnish: liikevoima
that which incites to action
  • Arabic:
  • Chinese: 动机 (dòngjí)
  • Dutch: motief
  • Finnish: vaikutin, motiivi
  • French: motif
  • German: Motiv
  • Hungarian: indíték
  • Italian: motivo
  • Japanese: 動機 (どうき, dōki)
  • Korean: 동기 (donggi)
  • Portuguese: motivo
  • Russian: мотив
  • Spanish: motivo
  • Swedish: motiv
theme or subject
  • Finnish: aihe
guiding or controlling idea manifested in a work of art
  • Finnish: aihe, motiivi


  1. To prompt or incite by a motive or motives; to move.



to prompt or incite
  • Finnish: motivoida


  1. Causing motion; having power to move, or tending to move; as, 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.


causing motion
  • Finnish: liike-, liikkeellepaneva, liikunta-






motive n p
  1. Plural of motiv

Extensive Definition

Motive or motif are terms that turn up in many different forms in literature and other creative works, as well as other fields such as business and law.
A motif may be a recurring fragment, theme or pattern in a creative work:
In biochemistry:
  • Sequence motif, a sequence pattern of nucleotides in a DNA sequence or amino acids in a protein.
  • Structural motif, a pattern in a protein structure formed by the spatial arrangement of amino acids.
  • A repeating pattern of elements in a crystal structure.
A motive may relate to intent:
In music:
motive in German: Motiv
motive in French: Motif
motive in Korean: 동기
motive in Hebrew: מוטיב
motive in Japanese: 動機
motive in Norwegian: Motiv
motive in Polish: Motyw
motive in Russian: Мотив
motive in Slovak: Motív
motive in Ukrainian: Мотив

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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