motif [ moh- teef ] SHOW IPA / moʊˈtif / PHONETIC RESPELLING noun 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
dating back to
see origin at
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019
Examples from the Web for motif
motif has been a classic of anti-modernism for two centuries in Europe.
The plot is different, the characters are different, the
motif different, and the scenic arrangement different.
In this "Confession" Tolstoy emphatically strikes the keynote which is the
motif of all his didactic writings.
And Mr. John Spearman's
motif is that I should pay him five hundred and fifty-six pounds.
Briefly stated, the
motif is that religious thought is converging into two main camps—Humanitarianism and Supernaturalism.
But more than this, it is plainly not a
motif derived from mythology at all, but from real life. British Dictionary definitions for motif noun 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 for motif
C19: from French. See
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
Word Origin and History for motif n.
"theme, predominant feature," 1848, from French
motif "dominant idea, theme" (see motive).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Culture definitions for motif
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.
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.