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verb (used with object), mo·ti·vat·ed, mo·ti·vat·ing.
  1. to provide with a motive, or a cause or reason to act; incite; impel.
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Origin of motivate

First recorded in 1860–65; motive + -ate1
Related formsmo·ti·va·tor, nounde·mo·ti·vate, verb (used with object), de·mo·ti·vat·ed, de·mo·ti·vat·ing.de·mo·ti·va·tor, nounnon·mo·ti·vat·ed, adjectivere·mo·ti·vate, verb (used with object), re·mo·ti·vat·ed, re·mo·ti·vat·ing.un·mo·ti·vat·ed, adjectiveun·mo·ti·vat·ing, adjectivewell-mo·ti·vat·ed, adjective

Synonyms for motivate

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for motivate

prompt, inspire, propel, sway, excite, drive, trigger, galvanize, spark, provoke, spur, persuade, incline, move, actuate, pique, arouse, quicken, lead, suggest

Examples from the Web for motivate

Contemporary Examples of motivate

Historical Examples of motivate

  • These problems may then motivate you to enter individual therapy.

  • He had felt it before, but the feeling was strong enough now to motivate action.


    Milton Lesser

  • Any sort of desire or need, left unsatisfied in the day, may motivate a dream.


    Robert S. Woodworth

  • The essential thing about value is that it motivate our conduct.

    Social Value

    B. M. Anderson

  • Again, the competitive impulse can often be used to motivate drill.

    How to Teach Religion

    George Herbert Betts

British Dictionary definitions for motivate


  1. (tr) to give incentive to
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Derived Formsmotivator, noun
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 motivate


1863, "to stimulate toward action," from motive + -ate (2); perhaps modeled on French motiver or German motivieren. Related: Motivated; motivating.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper