noun mo·tif \mō-ˈtēf\

: something (such as an important idea or subject) that is repeated throughout a book, story, etc.

: a single or repeated design or pattern

Full Definition of MOTIF

:  a usually recurring salient thematic element (as in the arts); especially :  a dominant idea or central theme
:  a single or repeated design or color
mo·tif·ic \-ˈtē-fik, -ˈti-\ adjective

Examples of MOTIF

  1. The wallpaper has a flower motif.
  2. <the motif of mute figures standing in lonely isolation is a recurrent one in the artist's works>
  3. … a hip awareness of its own cheesy implausibility, right down to the music: The thunderously orchestrated score uses Itsy Bitsy Spider as a motif. —People, 29 July 2002

Origin of MOTIF

French, motive, motif, from Middle French — more at motive
First Known Use: 1848

Other Fine Arts Terms

Gothic, baroque, bas-relief, limn, oeuvre, pastiche, rococo, sfumato
Medical Dictionary


noun mo·tif \mō-ˈtēf\

Medical Definition of MOTIF

:  a distinctive usually recurrent molecular sequence (as of amino acids or base pairs) or structural elements (as of secondary protein structures) <a simple protein motif consisting of two alpha helices>


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