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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.
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 incentives
  • When the data are supposed to support a thesis perfectly, the incentives to cut corners increase.
  • So governments sometimes try to make efficient appliances more appealing through financial incentives.
  • New regulations and new incentives are introduced every year.
  • Yet another city is offering incentives to homeowners to use thermal energy storage for night time wind power.
  • Search by zip code for incentives and rebates in your area.
  • Car companies weigh inventory against projected sales when deciding whether to offer incentives.
  • Any discussion about the workings of a market economy ultimately falls back on the power of incentives.
  • Though many of the incentives that led to chopping have gone, some persist.
  • Provide incentives for farming business to reduce the use of pesticides.
  • Another reason to consider going solar in one fashion or another is tax incentives.
British Dictionary definitions for incentives


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 incentives



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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