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.

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

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. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
incentive (ɪnˈsɛntɪv)
1.  a motivating influence; stimulus
2.  a.  an additional payment made to employees as a means of increasing production
 b.  (as modifier): an incentive scheme
3.  serving to incite to action
[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 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

early 15c., from L.L. incentivum, noun use of neut. L. adj. incentivus "setting the tune" (in L.L. "inciting"), from stem of incinere "strike up," from in- "in, into" + canere "sing" (see chant). 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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Example sentences
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
After adolescence many pupils lack incentive for an education that has no
  direct reference to a career.
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