[ lahyt-moh-teef ]
/ ˈlaɪt moʊˌtif /


a motif or theme associated throughout a music drama with a particular person, situation, or idea.

Origin of leitmotif

1875–80; < German: leading motive
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

Examples from the Web for leitmotif

British Dictionary definitions for leitmotif



/ (ˈlaɪtməʊˌtiːf) /


music a recurring short melodic phrase or theme used, esp in Wagnerian music dramas, to suggest a character, thing, etc
an often repeated word, phrase, image, or theme in a literary work

Word Origin for leitmotif

C19: from German leitmotiv leading motif
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for leitmotif

[ (leyet-moh-teef) ]

A frequently recurring bit of melody, usually in opera, associated with a person, thing, or emotion; Leitmotiv is German for “leading theme.” The leitmotif may be heard in the instrumental or the vocal part.

notes for leitmotif

Leitmotifs are particularly associated with the operas of Richard Wagner.

notes for leitmotif

Recurring themes or subjects in other forms of art or literature are sometimes also called leitmotifs.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.