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achievement motivation

Definition of 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.

Examples of Achievement Motivation

  • An Olympic athlete may be born with an ability or talent but must rise above others with the same gifts by hard work and dedication.
  • An individual from a lower class rising to a higher class through effort.

Etymology of Achievement Motivation

  • The term was first used by Henry Murray (1893–1988) and later popularized by David McClelland (1917–1998) who developed the Achievement Motivation Theory.

Achievement Motivation Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: a·chieve·ment mo·ti·va·tion

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /uh-chEEv-muhnt moh-tuh-vAY-shuhn/
  • British English – /uh-chEEv-muhnt moh-ti-vAY-shuhn/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /əˈʧivmənt ˌmoʊtəˈveɪʃən/
  • British English – /əˈʧiːvmənt ˌməʊtɪˈveɪʃən/

Usage Notes

Related Quotations

  • “By depriving people of access to opportunities, for instance, discrimination often leads to lack of qualification for them. The involuntary ascribed and negatively evaluated categorical status that emerges from discrimination not only takes precedence over any achieved status but reduces the probability of such achievement, thereby lowering all life chances. Put simply, discrimination makes it more difficult for the objects of discrimination to develop merit and reduces the likelihood that their merit will be recognized and rewarded” (McNamee and Miller 2013:180).
  • “In the image of the American Dream, America is the land of opportunity. Presumably, if you work hard enough and are talented enough, you can overcome any obstacle and achieve success. No matter where you start out in life, the sky is ostensibly the limit. According to the promise implied by the American Dream, you can go as far as your talents and abilities can take you” (McNamee and Miller 2013:1).

Related Videos

Additional Information

Related Terms


McNamee, Stephen J., and Robert K. Miller, Jr. 2013. The Meritocracy Myth. 3rd ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

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. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).

Cite the Definition of Achievement Motivation

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “achievement motivation.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved May 23, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/achievement-motivation/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

achievement motivation. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/achievement-motivation/

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

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “achievement motivation.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed May 23, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/achievement-motivation/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“achievement motivation.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 23 May. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/achievement-motivation/>.