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Word of the Day
Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Definitions for leitmotif

  1. In music drama, a marked melodic phrase or short passage which always accompanies the reappearance of a certain person, situation, abstract idea, or allusion in the course of the play; a sort of musical label.
  2. A dominant and recurring theme.

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Citations for leitmotif
Each actor to appear on stage is accompanied by a musical phrase on the drum -- a sort of leitmotif to characterize an emotion, much like a Wagnerian drama. Eleanor Blau, New York Times
One theme had recurred so frequently in these conversations that it had become the leitmotif of the trip. Jack F. Matlock Jr., Autopsy on an Empire
Origin of leitmotif
Leitmotif (also spelled leitmotiv) is from German Leitmotiv, "leading motif," from leiten, "to lead" (from Old High German leitan) + Motiv, "motif," from the French. It is especially associated with the operas of German composer Richard Wagner.