\ˈthēm \

Definition of theme 

1a : a subject or topic of discourse or of artistic representation guilt and punishment is the theme of the story

b : a specific and distinctive quality, characteristic, or concern the campaign has lacked a theme

2 : a melodic subject of a musical composition or movement

3 : a written exercise : composition a research theme

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from theme

themed \ˈthēmd \ adjective

Examples of theme in a Sentence

If one theme unites his scholarship it is that the Old South cannot be viewed as a monolith. — Eric Foner, New York Times Book Review, 8 Apr. 2007 One reiterated theme of his book is that the electoral process can be the most dangerous of delusions, tending to confer a spurious legitimacy on those most willing to corrupt it. — Hilary Mantel, New York Review, 21 Sept. 2006 The Eve of biblical legend was a temptress, thus initiating a lamentable theme in the history of sexism. — Stephen Jay Gould, Discover, July 1992 The quest for power is the underlying theme of the film. A constant theme in his novels is religion. The playwright skillfully brings together various themes. The album focuses on themes of love and loss. Adventures are popular themes in children's books. The growing deficit was a dominant theme in the election. The party had a Hawaiian luau theme. They played the theme from the movie “Rocky.”
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Considering the global theme of this Padres season, however, those were the only distinctions that could have made the night better. Kevin Acee,, "Tyson Ross gives Padres win in loss to Dodgers," 12 July 2018 Senate Democrats and their allies are casting Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh as a grave danger to Americans’ ability to afford health care as a central theme of their high-decibel campaign to block his ascension to the Supreme Court. Amy Goldstein, Washington Post, "Democrats say Kavanaugh could help end Obamacare, but court likely to deal with narrower issues," 12 July 2018 And although the dystopian nightmare facing the handmaids in the theocratic Republic of Gilead (formerly America's East Coast) has grown more oppressive and violent, the second season has featured themes of growing rebellion among the captives. Erin Ben-moche,, "'The Handmaid's Tale': Finale event brings questions and answers," 10 July 2018 The theme of this year’s Earth Day was ending plastic pollution; one of the goals is to eliminate single-use plastics. Christina Caron, New York Times, "Starbucks to Stop Using Disposable Plastic Straws by 2020," 9 July 2018 The only real exceptions to this ongoing theme of the tournament have come from Brazil and France., "Quality vs Fire: Why Uruguay's Clash With France Could Indicate How the World Cup Will Be Won," 4 July 2018 The fan base for men’s basketball has loudly voiced its displeasure with Maryland’s performance the past few years, in particular the continuing theme of late-season slumps. Don Markus,, "Five of the biggest challenges facing new Maryland athletic director Damon Evans," 28 June 2018 The Live Well Garden extends the Senior Services theme of aging well by living a healthy, active lifestyle, officials said. David Ibata, ajc, "Forsyth County unveils community garden at Sexton Hall," 26 June 2018 The film explores the themes of American consumerism, veteran P.T.S.D., and the coming of age of a teenage girl. Nicole Sperling, HWD, "The Filmmaker Who Discovered Jennifer Lawrence Has Found a New Star in Leave No Trace," 26 June 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of theme

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for theme

Middle English teme, theme, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French, from Latin thema, from Greek, literally, something laid down, from tithenai to place — more at do

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about theme

Statistics for theme

Last Updated

9 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for theme

The first known use of theme was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for theme



English Language Learners Definition of theme

: the main subject that is being discussed or described in a piece of writing, a movie, etc.

: a particular subject or issue that is discussed often or repeatedly

: the particular subject or idea on which the style of something (such as a party or room) is based


\ˈthēm \

Kids Definition of theme

1 : a subject of a work of art, music, or literature

2 : a specific quality, characteristic, or concern The room is decorated in a tropical theme.

3 : a written exercise : essay

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on theme

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


a state of commotion or excitement

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Roman Mythology Quiz

  • the-triumph-of-venus-by-alessandro-magnasco
  • Boreal comes from the name of the ancient Greek god of which wind?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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