Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Something, such as the fear of punishment or the expectation of reward, that induces action or motivates effort.
  • adjective Serving to induce or motivate.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Inciting; encouraging.
  • Setting fire; igniting; firing; incendiary.
  • noun That which moves the mind or stirs the passions; that which incites or tends to incite to action; motive; spur: as, pride is a powerful incentive.
  • noun Synonyms Impulse, etc. (see motive), stimulus, incitement, encouragement, goad.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Inciting; encouraging or moving; rousing to action; stimulative.
  • adjective rare Serving to kindle or set on fire.
  • noun That which moves or influences the mind, or operates on the passions; that which incites, or has a tendency to incite, to determination or action; that which prompts to good or ill; motive; spur.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun Something that motivates, rouses, or encourages.
  • noun A bonus or reward, often monetary, to work harder.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a positive motivational influence
  • noun an additional payment (or other remuneration) to employees as a means of increasing output

Etymologies

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

[Middle English, from Late Latin incentīvum, from neuter of incentīvus, inciting, from Latin, setting the tune, from incentus, past participle of incinere, to sound : in-, intensive pref.; see in– + canere, to sing; see kan- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Medieval Latin incentivus ("that strikes up or sets the tune"), from incinere ("to strike up"), from in ("in, on") + canere ("to sing"). The formation appears to have been influenced by incendere ' to set on fire'.

Examples

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