Definition of motive noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



BrE BrE//ˈməʊtɪv//
; NAmE NAmE//ˈmoʊtɪv//
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motive (for something) a reason for doing something There seemed to be no motive for the murder. I'm suspicious of his motives. the profit motive (= the desire to make a profit) I have an ulterior motive in offering to help you. Synonymsreasonexplanation grounds basis excuse motive justification pretextThese are all words for a cause or an explanation for something that has happened or that somebody has done.reason a cause or an explanation for something that has happened or that somebody has done; a fact that makes it right or fair to do something:He said no but he didn’t give a reason.explanation a statement, fact or situation that tells you why something has happened; a reason given for something:The most likely explanation is that his plane was delayed. She left the room abruptly without explanation.grounds (rather formal) a good or true reason for saying, doing or believing something:You have no grounds for complaint.basis (rather formal) the reason why people take a particular action:On what basis will this decision be made?excuse a reason, either true or invented, that you give to explain or defend your behaviour; a good reason that you give for doing something that you want to do for other reasons:Late again! What’s your excuse this time? It gave me an excuse to take the car.motive a reason that explains somebody’s behaviour:There seemed to be no motive for the murder.justification (rather formal) a good reason why something exists or is done:I can see no possible justification for any further tax increases.grounds or justification?Justification is used to talk about finding or understanding reasons for actions, or trying to explain why it is a good idea to do something. It is often used with words like little, no, some, every, without, and not any. Grounds is used more for talking about reasons that already exist, or that have already been decided, for example by law: moral/​economic grounds.pretext (rather formal) a false reason that you give for doing something, usually something bad, in order to hide the real reason:He left the party early on the pretext of having to work.Patterns (a/​an) reason/​explanation/​grounds/​basis/​excuse/​motive/​justification/​pretext for something the reason/​motive behind something on the grounds/​basis/​pretext of/​that… (a) good/​valid reason/​explanation/​grounds/​excuse/​motive/​justification Word Origin late Middle English: from Old French motif (adjective used as a noun), from late Latin motivus, from movere ‘to move’.Extra examples He was acting from the highest motives when he offered her money. He was suspicious of her motives in inviting him into the house. However you explain the motives behind his actions, he was still wrong. I did it for a variety of motives. I’d say he had a very strong motive for wanting her dead. It it is clear that they were acting from motives of revenge. She knew that he was inspired by base motives. She should examine her motives for marrying him. She was not sure what his underlying motives were. The police are still trying to establish a motive for the attack. There is no doubt about the motive behind it all. There may be a hidden motive for his departure. There must be something which provided a motive for these killings. There seemed to be no clear motive for the attack. We give aid to other countries with mixed motives. We’ve become adept at hiding our true motives. What was their motive in setting fire to the building? speculation that less noble motives were driving the country’s foreign policy I’m suspicious of his motives.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: motive

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