from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A recurrent thematic element in an artistic or literary work.
  • n. A dominant theme or central idea.
  • n. Music A short rhythmic or melodic passage that is repeated or evoked in various parts of a composition.
  • n. A repeated figure or design in architecture or decoration. See Synonyms at figure.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A recurring or dominant element; a theme.
  • n. A short melodic passage that is repeated in several parts of a work
  • n. A decorative figure that is repeated in a design
  • n. The physical object or objects repeated at each point of a lattice. Usually atoms or molecules.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Motive.
  • n. In literature and the fine arts, a salient feature or element of a composition or work; esp., the theme, or central or dominant feature
  • n. A decorative appliqué design or figure, as of lace or velvet, used in trimming; also, a repeated design.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A Middle English form of motive.
  • n. [F.] A datum, theme, or ground for intellectual action: used as French.
  • n. [F.] In music:
  • n. A figure.
  • n. A subject or theme, particularly one that recurs often in a dramatic work as a leading subject.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a unifying idea that is a recurrent element in literary or artistic work
  • n. a theme that is repeated or elaborated in a piece of music
  • n. a design or figure that consists of recurring shapes or colors, as in architecture or decoration


French, from Old French, motive; see motive.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French motif (1848), with the meaning of main idea or theme (Wiktionary)


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  • cool I like that definition jwjarvis

    November 13, 2010

  • a pattern in a protein structure formed by the spatial arrangement of amino acids

    November 12, 2010