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90s Slang You Should Know


[in-sen-tiv] /ɪnˈsɛn tɪv/
something that incites or tends to incite to action or greater effort, as a reward offered for increased productivity.
inciting, as to action; stimulating; provocative.
Origin of incentive
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English < Late Latin incentīvus provocative, Latin: setting the tune, equivalent to incent(us) (past participle of incinere to play (an instrument, tunes); in- in-2 + -cinere, combining form of canere to sing) + -īvus -ive
Related forms
incentively, adverb
counterincentive, noun
nonincentive, adjective
preincentive, noun
superincentive, noun, adjective
1. stimulus, spur, incitement, impulse, encouragement; goad, prod.
Synonym Study
1. See motive. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for incentive
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She alone had not only the incentive, but the necessary opportunity.

    The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow Anna Katharine Green
  • "I can hardly imagine anyone needing any incentive to that from me," he said.

    The Rhodesian Gertrude Page
  • Hence they must have their origin in the third incentive; and this will be established a posteriori in the sequel.

    The Basis of Morality Arthur Schopenhauer
  • Schwickerath thinks that such was the spirit in which the Jesuits employed this incentive.

    History of Education Levi Seeley
  • Mark both God's love to us in him, and his love to man, and you will have the best directive and incentive of your love.

British Dictionary definitions for incentive


a motivating influence; stimulus
  1. an additional payment made to employees as a means of increasing production
  2. (as modifier): an incentive scheme
serving to incite to action
Derived Forms
incentively, adverb
Word Origin
C15: from Late Latin incentīvus (adj), from Latin: striking up, setting the tune, from incinere to sing, from in-² + canere to sing
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for incentive

early 15c., from Late Latin incentivum, noun use of neuter of Latin adjective incentivus "setting the tune" (in Late Latin "inciting"), from past participle stem of incinere "strike up," from in- "in, into" (see in- (2)) + canere "sing" (see chant (v.)). Sense influenced by association with incendere "to kindle." The adjective use, in reference to a system of rewards meant to encourage harder work, first attested 1943 in jargon of the U.S. war economy; as a noun, in this sense, from 1948.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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