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.
  3. a short, informal essay, especially a school composition.
  4. Music.
    1. a principal melodic subject in a musical composition.
    2. a short melodic subject from which variations are developed.
  5. 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).
  6. Linguistics. topic(def 4).
  7. 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

1250–1300; Middle English teme, theme (< Old French teme) < Medieval Latin thema, Latin < Greek théma proposition, deposit, akin to tithénai to put, set down
Related formstheme·less, adjectivesub·theme, noun

Synonyms for theme

1. thesis, text. See subject. 3. paper. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for theming


  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
  3. music a group of notes forming a recognizable melodic unit, often used as the basis of the musical material in a composition
  4. a short essay, esp one set as an exercise for a student
  5. 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
  6. grammar another word for root 1 (def. 9), stem 1 (def. 9)
  7. (in the Byzantine Empire) a territorial unit consisting of several provinces under a military commander
  8. (modifier) planned or designed round one unifying subject, image, etca theme holiday
  1. (tr) to design, decorate, arrange, etc, in accordance with a theme
Derived Formsthemeless, adjective

Word Origin for theme

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



c.1300, from Old French tesme (13c., with silent -s-), from Latin thema "a subject, thesis," from Greek thema "a proposition, subject, deposit," literally "something set down," from root of tithenai "put down, place," from PIE root *dhe- "to put, to do" (see factitious). Extension to music first recorded 1670s; theme song first attested 1929. Theme park is from 1960.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

theming in Culture


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.