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: Pulmonary problems were a grim motif in his life.
Biochemistry. a distinct pattern of amino acids in a function-specific protein sequence: No polyproline motif has been observed in these yeast proteins.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use motif in a sentence
Skeletons and calavera motifs, surrounding Latin women, feature prominently in his paintings.
I think he wanted to draw parallels between the different time periods through motifs.True Detective’s Red Herring: Actress Erin Moriarty, Who Plays Marty’s Daughter, Tells All | Marlow Stern | March 10, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
“I believe that eyes are very important motifs,” said Kusama.Yayoi Kusama Contemplates Life and Death in Technicolor | Ann Binlot | November 12, 2013 | THE DAILY BEAST
The British designer's Spring/Summer 2014 collection was a nod to summer with daisy motifs and flirty frocks.
The motifs were a reminder of what changed for women in the 1920s.Paris's Craziest Show Yet: Manish Arora Spring/ Summer 2014 | Liza Foreman | September 26, 2013 | THE DAILY BEAST
It is such a chance, for Frau Burg-Schmidt will explain the motifs to me, and tell me when to look for them.The Four Corners Abroad | Amy Ella Blanchard
These are the two motifs, knit together by no shred of logical connection, which form the threads on which the drama is hung.Modernities | Horace Barnett Samuel
The specimen illustrated is rich in decorative motifs associated with the best in Florentine art.All About Coffee | William H. Ukers
The design motifs are unique in comparison with those found on other English pottery of the 17th century.North Devon Pottery and Its Export to America in the 17th Century | C. Malcolm Watkins
Motifs: The motifs are varied and never occur in any one combination more than once.North Devon Pottery and Its Export to America in the 17th Century | C. Malcolm Watkins
British Dictionary definitions for motif
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
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 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.