[moh-shuh n]


verb (used with object)

to direct by a significant motion or gesture, as with the hand: to motion a person to a seat.

verb (used without object)

to make a meaningful motion, as with the hand; gesture; signal: to motion to someone to come.


    go through the motions, to do something halfheartedly, routinely, or as a formality or façade.
    in motion, in active operation; moving: The train was already in motion when he tried to board it.

Origin of motion

1350–1400; Middle English mocio(u)n < Latin mōtiōn- (stem of mōtiō), equivalent to mōt(us) (past participle of movēre to move) + -iōn- -ion
Related formsmo·tion·al, adjectivemo·tion·er, nounin·ter·mo·tion, nounnon·mo·tion, nounself-mo·tion, nounun·der·mo·tion, nounun·mo·tioned, adjectiveun·mo·tion·ing, adjective

Synonym study

1. Motion, move, movement refer to change of position in space. Motion denotes change of position, either considered apart from, or as a characteristic of, something that moves; usually the former, in which case it is often a somewhat technical or scientific term: perpetual motion. The chief uses of move are founded upon the idea of moving a piece, in chess or a similar game, for winning the game, and hence the word denotes any change of position, condition, or circumstances for the accomplishment of some end: a shrewd move to win votes. Movement is always connected with the person or thing moving, and is usually a definite or particular motion: the movements of a dance. 3. bearing, carriage. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for go through the motions



Sir Andrew. born 1952, British poet and biographer; his collections include Pleasure Steamers (1978) and Public Property (2002): poet laureate (1999–2009)



the process of continual change in the physical position of an object; movementlinear motion Related adjective: kinetic
a movement or action, esp of part of the human body; a gesture
  1. the capacity for movement
  2. a manner of movement, esp walking; gait
a mental impulse
a formal proposal to be discussed and voted on in a debate, meeting, etc
law an application made to a judge or court for an order or ruling necessary to the conduct of legal proceedings
  1. the evacuation of the bowels
  2. excrement
  1. part of a moving mechanism
  2. the action of such a part
music the upward or downward course followed by a part or melody. Parts whose progressions are in the same direction exhibit similar motion, while two parts whose progressions are in opposite directions exhibit contrary motionSee also parallel (def. 3)
go through the motions
  1. to act or perform the task (of doing something) mechanically or without sincerity
  2. to mimic the action (of something) by gesture
in motion operational or functioning (often in the phrases set in motion, set the wheels in motion)


(when tr, may take a clause as object or an infinitive) to signal or direct (a person) by a movement or gesture
Derived Formsmotional, adjective

Word Origin for motion

C15: from Latin mōtiō a moving, from movēre to move
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

Word Origin and History for go through the motions



late 14c., "suggestion; process of moving," from Old French mocion "movement, motion; change, alteration" (13c.), from Latin motionem (nominative motio) "a moving, a motion; an emotion," from past participle stem of movere "to move" (see move (v.)). Motion picture attested from 1896.



late 15c., "to request, petition" (obsolete), from motion (n.). The sense in parliamentary procedure first recorded 1747; with meaning "to guide or direct by a sign, gesture, movement" it is attested from 1787. Related: Motioned; motioning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for go through the motions




The act or process of changing position or place.
The manner in which the body or a body part moves.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with go through the motions

go through the motions

Do something perfunctorily, or merely pretend to do it. For example, The team is so far behind that they're just going through the motions, or She didn't really grieve at his death; she just went through the motions. [c. 1800]


see go through the motions; set in motion; set the wheels in motion.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.