from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To incentivize: "would use tax breaks to incent corporations to invest in their future” ( Scott Canon).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To provide an incentive to (a person or organization).
  • v. To provide an incentive for (something).


Back-formation from incentive.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Back-formation from incentive. (Wiktionary)


  • The word incent represents an appalling abuse of the English language.

    Getting catty about legal language

  • My brother, who teaches high school in a Chicago suburb, recently told me that his school board is now throwing around the word "incent," as in "we want to incent our students to optimize their educational outcomes."

    Some hockey lingo deserves a spot in the penalty box

  • Now that people have had a few (small) doses of Arnespeak (like "incent" as a verb), it's time to get ready for the full foulness of the programs.

    Archive 2009-03-01

  • I can "incent" my students to know enough to pass just about any test, but mastery requires time, effort, and love.

    Archive 2009-02-01

  • I share your disdain for stupid diction, and "incent" is certainly among the stupider.

    Getting catty about legal language

  • Sorry, but "incent" is a useful word, which is why it's not going away any time soon.

    Getting catty about legal language

  • Richard: Thanks for pointing me to her; I just read her eminently sensible column on the verb "incent" and I think I'll add her to the sidebar. SAFIRE REACHES NEW DEPTHS.

  • First, in this hyperpartisan age, I extend my hand across the aisle to Brett Bellmore (whose politics seem to be different than mine) to form a bi-partisan movement to denounce the use of "incent" and even "incentivize," and to encourage the use of "encourage" and similar real and less ugly words.

    Dave Kopel RSS feed

  • : However, I should point out that the word "incent" is back-formed from, "incentivize," isn't recognized by VC's built-in spell-checker either.

    Dave Kopel RSS feed

  • No college progrma to keep in shape, no combines to keep them in shape....these kids could end up w/o anyone to "incent" them to stay in shap but themselves, and we've all seen atheletes fail under that structure.


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  • See also “Words that MUST BE DESTROYED”.

    October 16, 2011

  • Wasn't this worth the visit?
    "Either I'm too high or this incent smells like pussy”

    October 16, 2011

  • This vile word incentses me.

    October 16, 2011

  • "Producers were scrambling to keep up with skyrocketing demand, and it is unclear how much incremental supply the subsidies really incented."
    - unclear source, quoted by Giles Parkinson in The great big subsidy myth,, 10 Oct 2011.

    October 16, 2011

  • I actually hate this verb more than I hate incentivize.

    May 22, 2009