leitmotif

play
noun leit·mo·tif \ˈlīt-mō-ˌtēf\
variants: or less commonly

leitmotiv

Definition of leitmotif

  1. 1 :  an associated melodic phrase or figure that accompanies the reappearance of an idea, person, or situation especially in a Wagnerian music drama

  2. 2 :  a dominant recurring theme

leitmotif was our Word of the Day on 11/18/2014. Hear the podcast!

Recent Examples of leitmotif from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'leitmotif'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Did You Know?

The English word leitmotif (or leitmotiv, as it is also spelled) comes from the German Leitmotiv, meaning "leading motive" and formed from leiten ("to lead") and Motiv (motive). In its original sense, the word applies to opera music and was first used by writers interpreting the works of composer Richard Wagner, who was famous for associating a melody with a character or important dramatic element. Leitmotif is still commonly used with reference to music and musical drama but is now also used more broadly to refer to any recurring theme in the arts or in everyday life.

Origin and Etymology of leitmotif

German Leitmotiv, from leiten to lead + Motiv motive


First Known Use: circa 1880


Learn More about leitmotif


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up leitmotif? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

the point at which something begins

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • istock-refers-to-this-as-a-tumble-of-strawberries-which-sounded-pretty-nice-to-us
  • Which is a synonym of garner?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!