[ theem ]
See synonyms for: themethemes on

  1. a subject of discourse, discussion, meditation, or composition; topic: The need for world peace was the theme of the meeting.

  2. a unifying or dominant idea, motif, etc., as in a work of art.

  1. a short, informal essay, especially a school composition.

  2. Music.

    • a principal melodic subject in a musical composition.

    • a short melodic subject from which variations are developed.

  3. Grammar. the element common to all or most of the forms of an inflectional paradigm, often consisting of a root with certain formative elements or modifications.: Compare stem1 (def. 16).

  4. Linguistics. topic (def. 4).

  5. Also thema. an administrative division of the Byzantine Empire.

  1. having a unifying theme: a theme restaurant decorated like a spaceship.

verb (used with object),themed, them·ing.
  1. to provide with a theme.

Origin of theme

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English teme, theme (from Old French teme), from Medieval Latin thema,Latin, from Greek théma “proposition, deposit,” akin to tithénai “to put, set down”

synonym study For theme

1. See subject.

Other words for theme

Other words from theme

  • themeless, adjective
  • subtheme, noun

Words Nearby theme Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use theme in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for theme


/ (θiːm) /

  1. an idea or topic expanded in a discourse, discussion, etc

  2. (in literature, music, art, etc) a unifying idea, image, or motif, repeated or developed throughout a work

  1. music a group of notes forming a recognizable melodic unit, often used as the basis of the musical material in a composition

  2. a short essay, esp one set as an exercise for a student

  3. linguistics the first major constituent of a sentence, usually but not necessarily the subject. In the sentence history I do like, "history" is the theme of the sentence, even though it is the object of the verb

  4. grammar another word for root 1 (def. 9), stem 1 (def. 9)

  5. (in the Byzantine Empire) a territorial unit consisting of several provinces under a military commander

  6. (modifier) planned or designed round one unifying subject, image, etc: a theme holiday

  1. (tr) to design, decorate, arrange, etc, in accordance with a theme

Origin of theme

C13: from Latin thema, from Greek: deposit, from tithenai to lay down

Derived forms of theme

  • themeless, adjective

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 theme


A central idea in a piece of writing or other work of art: “The theme of desperation is found throughout his novels.” Also a short composition assigned to a student as a writing exercise.

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.