Definition of leitmotif
1 : an associated melodic phrase or figure that accompanies the reappearance of an idea, person, or situation especially in a Wagnerian music drama
2 : a dominant recurring theme
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
Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article 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).