Definitions

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

  • n. A melodic passage or phrase, especially in Wagnerian opera, associated with a specific character, situation, or element.
  • n. A dominant and recurring theme, as in a novel.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A melodic theme associated with a particular character, place, thing or idea in an opera.
  • n. A recurring theme.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. a guiding theme; in Wagnerian opera, a marked melodic phrase or short musical 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. Also called Leading motive.
  • n. a recurring theme in the activities of a person or group.

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

  • n. a melodic phrase that accompanies the reappearance of a person or situation (as in Wagner's operas)

Etymologies

German Leitmotiv : leiten, to lead (from Middle High German, from Old High German leitan; see leit- in Indo-European roots) + Motiv, motif (from French motif; see motif).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From German Leitmotiv ("leading motive"), from leiten ("to lead") + Motiv ("motive"), originally used to describe Wagnerian opera. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • But also I think the use of leitmotif is one of the ways in which you can tie together a narrative that is otherwise quite separated.

    The Limits of Tolerance

  • With the no-doubt unintended effect of suggesting that Wallace's menace and ensuing mayhem might, in hindsight, be laughed-off like a good-ol'-boy joke, "George Wallace: Settin 'the Woods on Fire" takes part of its title, and its misguided musical leitmotif from a wacky, Hank Williams party-hearty song.

    Film/Television: Lost Highways

  • WHY: The exhibition Last One will show Kozyrev's works from the artist's two latest series Lost Edge and Last One, in which his leitmotif is the ruin or fragment.

    Exhibition Spotlight: Artist Dimitri Kozyrev Explores Ruin, Geometry, And Stalin

  • "Worried, I look around and see what happens, I'm not their leitmotif, which is the base of their lives: Violence, hatred and death, because too many people remained silent."

    J. Weekly

  • Guwahati, April 5: Machor tenga, a sweet-and-sour curry which has come to be known as the leitmotif of the Assamese kitchen, has gone global.

    WN.com - Business News

  • Readers have been captivated by "Invincible," the sweeping wow power leveling new musical piece released by Blizzard wow gold recalling the leitmotif of the wow power leveling Wrath of the Lich King trailer.

    MyBookFace :: Blogs

  • Readers have been wedding dresses wow power leveling wow gold captivated by "Invincible," wedding dresses the sweeping wow power leveling new musical piece released by Blizzard recalling the leitmotif of the Wrath of the Lich King trailer.

    MyBookFace :: Blogs

  • "Worried I look around and see what happens, I'm not their leitmotif, which is the base of their lives: Violence, hatred and death, because too many people remained silent."

    KSAT - Local News

  • Readers have been captivated by "Invincible," the sweeping new musical piece released by Blizzard recalling the leitmotif of the

    WoW.com

  • But then, it's not, because it's set at Christmas, and there's a kind of leitmotif of churchbells ringing through it and there are two parallel stories of a flu epidemic in Oxford enough in the future to enable time travel and then the plague story in the Oxford at the time when the plague broke out.

    Christmas Reading

Comments

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  • duh-dum, duh-dum, duh-dum, (enter Jaws shark)...no?

    April 30, 2008

  • Best modern example? Arrested Development

    April 29, 2008

  • *hums the Imperial March*

    October 3, 2007