achievement motivation

(noun) An individual’s drive for accomplishment and prestige through the mastery of skills and entrepreneurship, often a significant factor in economic achievement.

Example: An Olympic athlete may be born with natural ability or talent but must rise above others with the same gifts by hard work and dedication.

Audio Pronunciation: (a·chieve·ment mo·ti·va·tion)

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Usage Notes:

  • Plural: achievement motivations
  • The term was first used by Henry Murray (1893–1988) and later popularized by David McClelland (1917–1998) who developed the Achievement Motivation Theory.
  • This term is sociologically problematic because it fails to account for disparate social and economic structures as determining factors in achievement.
  • Also called:
    • need achievement
    • need for achievement
    • n-achievement theory

Additional Information:

Related Terms: 


Works Consulted

Abercrombie, Nicholas, Stephen Hill and Bryan Turner. 2006. The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology. 5th ed. London: Penguin.

Bruce, Steve, and Steven Yearley. 2006. The SAGE Dictionary of Sociology. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Collins English Dictionary: Complete and Unabridged. 6th ed. 2003. Glasgow, Scotland: Collins.

Jary, David, and Julia Jary. 2000. Collins Dictionary of Sociology. 3rd ed. Glasgow, Scotland: HarperCollins.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (


How to Cite the Definition of Achievement Motivation

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “achievement motivation.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved July 18, 2019 (

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

achievement motivation. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “achievement motivation.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed July 18, 2019.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“achievement motivation.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 18 Jul. 2019. <>.