what makes one tick

what makes (one) tick

The things that motivate someone; the reasons why a person behaves in a certain way. I'd love to sit you down for an interview and find out what makes you tick. Growing up hearing about her grandfather's heroic deeds in the war are a major part of what makes Janet tick.
See also: make, tick, what

what makes one tick

What makes one function characteristically, what motivates one, as in We've never figured out what makes these chess players tick. This expression alludes to tick in the sense of "function as an operating mechanism, such as a clock." [Colloquial; first half of 1900s]
See also: make, one, tick, what
References in periodicals archive ?
With an opportunity to delve deep into addiction to find what makes one tick, choosing to shun it in favour of a fastpaced drama with an unlikeable lead is disappointing.