Wednesday, 26 July 2006


I’ve seen this word a couple of times recently and assumed it was a recent American import; it certainly sounds like it, though of course they would spell it with a zee in that quaint way they have. Not so: the first use of it in print, as far as the OED knows, was as far back as 1968, and that was in the Guardian, of all places.

It means, as one might guess, motivate or encourage (a person, esp. an employee or customer) by providing a (usually financial) incentive. Also: to make (a product, scheme, etc.) attractive by offering an incentive for purchase or participation.

So it’s a slightly specialised variant of motivate, and is a word we can well do without. I can, anyway.


Jerry Aulenbach said...

Thanks for this comment. I totally agree that this word belongs in the past. There's no need to use this one ever again. I heard Alex Jones use it today on his radio program. He's the type of guy who would use a word like that, thinking it's either commonplace or that it would make him look good. Good post.

-Jerry Aulenbach

Stephanie said...

I'd disagree - I just used this word and there was no more suitable word for my sentence. I was talking about 'incentives' in the marketing term and querying whether something had the qualitites to 'incentivise' purchase of a subsequent product. Motivate would not have worked here - do you agree? So pleased I found your blog - I shall read it often.

Tony said...

Sorry, Stephanie, but I don't agree. I seems to me that you are asking if this something would "encourage sales" or "stimulate sales". "Incentivise purchase" strikes me as virtually meaningless.
But then perhaps you wanted to say something meaningless? I was in marketing—sorry, Marketing—for fourteen years and know that there are situations that call for a meaningless phrase.
Anyway, I hope my disagreement will not de-incentivise you from calling again. An addition to the small but select band of my readers is always welcome.

Mat said...

Tony - i think that the difference between "encourage sales" or "stimulate sales" and "Incentivise" is that the "polarity" (is that the right word?) is a bit different ?

Encouraging / stimulating sales is something that a business might want to achieve although when you talk about incentives - or incentivise - this term is much more to do with the perceived attitudes and/or expectations of the consumer ?

Tony said...

Mat: I'm not absolutely sure that I know what you are talking about but I daresay you are right.

Pat Newman said...

I just punched in this word because I find it highly annoying that we Americans are making verbs out of nouns ad nauseum. It seems as though people are trying to sound more sophisticated, but are achieving the opposite.

Teddy III said...

"...trying to sound more sophisticated, but are achieving the opposite."

Yes, Pat, but I think you mean "ad nauseAm"