[ moh-teef ]
/ mo??tif /


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.



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Origin of motif

First recorded in 1840–50; from French; see origin at motive Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, ? Random House, Inc. 2020

Example sentences from the Web for motif

British Dictionary definitions for motif

/ (m???ti?f) /


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 motive
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

[ (moh-teef) ]

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.