- a recurring subject, theme, idea, etc., especially in a literary, artistic, or musical work.
- a distinctive and recurring form, shape, figure, etc., in a design, as in a painting or on wallpaper.
- a dominant idea or feature: the profit motif of free enterprise.
Origin of motif
Examples from the Web for motif
My understanding is that this artwork came first and was soon replaced with the “Sambo as a baby genie” motif.Pancakes and Pickaninnies: The Saga of ‘Sambo’s,’ The ‘Racist’ Restaurant Chain America Once Loved
June 30, 2014
This motif has been a classic of anti-modernism for two centuries in Europe.Sorry, Naysayers, But America Isn’t Over Yet
November 22, 2013
I thought that you of all people could work out that motif adequately.
The motif of the work is most beautifully and pathetically represented.Fair Italy, the Riviera and Monte Carlo
W. Cope Devereux
It complimentarily introduces a hint or two of Wagner's Grail motif.Contemporary American Composers
We have then to allow for the growth of a mythology with the twelve signs as its motif.The Astronomy of the Bible
E. Walter Maunder
Boudins characteristic was not of colour alone, but of motif as well.Rambles in Normandy
- a distinctive idea, esp a theme elaborated on in a piece of music, literature, etc
- Also: motive a recurring form or shape in a design or pattern
- a single added piece of decoration, such as a symbol or name on a jumper, sweatshirt, etc
Word Origin and History for motif
"theme, predominant feature," 1848, from French motif "dominant idea, theme" (see motive).
In literature, art, or music, a recurring set of words, shapes, colors, or notes. In the poem “The Raven,” by Edgar Allan Poe, for example, the word nevermore is a motif appearing at the end of each stanza. Likewise, the first four notes of the Fifth Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven are a motif that is developed and reshaped throughout the work.