Simple Definition of motif
: something (such as an important idea or subject) that is repeated throughout a book, story, etc.
: a single or repeated design or pattern
Examples of motif in a sentence
… 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
In retrospect, it is now clear that the alien invasion motif in 1950s science fiction movies reflected the Cold War atmosphere of the period. —Paul A. Cantor, Gilligan Unbound, 2001
The first-class scowl, shaved head and scars on his right shoulder and biceps fit the tough-guy motif, but it's a facade. —Ric Bucher, ESPN, 28 May 2001
The branding is done by combining a commercial trademark with one or another subcultural motif, a subculture the buyer belongs to or wants to join: surfing, skateboarding, … —John Seabrook, New Yorker, 20 Sept. 1999
The wallpaper has a flower motif.
<the motif of mute figures standing in lonely isolation is a recurrent one in the artist's works>
Origin and Etymology of motif
French, motive, motif, from Middle French — more at motive
First Known Use: 1848
Rhymes with motif
bay leaf, belief, crew chief, debrief, drop leaf, endleaf, enfeoff, fig leaf, fire chief, flyleaf, gold leaf, in brief, in chief, kerchief, loose-leaf, massif, naïf, O'Keeffe, red leaf, relief, sharif, shinleaf, sneak thief, Tallchief
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) <These RNA molecules have an intriguing structural motif, absent in normal RNA, that recognizes an amino acid and chemically binds to it, forming a novel type of RNA enzyme, or ribozyme.—Jessa Netting, Science News, 7 Apr. 2001> <Only about half these genes have recognizable motifs, or DNA-sequence patterns, that suggest possible functions.—Alan E. Guttmacher and Francis S. Collins, The New England Journal of Medicine, 7 Nov. 2002>
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