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[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. See motive. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for incentive
  • There was no incentive for companies to spend money on scrubbers.
  • But because the local economy was in the doldrums, there was little incentive to knock down motels and put up something bigger.
  • The fees give game farmers an incentive to breed rhinos and keep them on their property.
  • After adolescence many pupils lack incentive for an education that has no direct reference to a career.
  • Still, he insisted that the government has every incentive to reduce student-loan defaults.
  • They have comfortable conditions of work and see no incentive to move.
  • There was neither compelling incentive nor any advantage.
  • Most places have no kind of incentive pay or performance-based increases.
  • Employers seemingly have little incentive to look for alternative certification.
  • There is no real incentive for me to help out lower level students or to even try to reach them.
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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