\ ˈthēm How to pronounce theme (audio) \

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

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Other Words from theme

themed \ ˈthēmd How to pronounce theme (audio) \ 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.”
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Recent Examples on the Web Each store had its own theme, such as the Sunnyvale location detailing the history of Silicon Valley, and the Houston store paying tribute to the history of Texas oil. Brett Molina, USA TODAY, "West Coast chain Fry's Electronics is going out of business after 36 years," 24 Feb. 2021 Its theme, accordingly, is the healing power of storytelling. Roger Catlin, Smithsonian Magazine, "Pandemic Can’t Stop the Mother Tongue Film Festival," 20 Feb. 2021 The costumes were part of a performance-art piece about the perils of pleasure-seeking and superficiality, which, again, has been his theme since his earliest mixtapes. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "The Cynical Fun of The Weeknd’s Halftime Show," 8 Feb. 2021 Their theme is opposition to our existence and, in its worst iteration, eliminating us. Daniel Hernandez, Los Angeles Times, "Week 1 and counting in the Biden-Harris era as Latinos wait on immigration promises," 27 Jan. 2021 Networks that devoted much of the past four years to criticizing Mr. Trump stuck to their theme in the final hours of his presidency. New York Times, "From Trump to Biden, TV Captures a Dramatic Shift," 20 Jan. 2021 Something told the Tribune staff writer of the New Year’s editorial to take its theme from nature’s cycle of death and rebirth. Ron Grossman,, "Flashback: ‘What’s on the other side?’ The Tribune’s New Year’s editions reflect the many mood swings of a city," 1 Jan. 2021 Keeping in step with its most consistent theme since the 2010 midterms, Congress has once again favored gridlock and posturing around optics over effective aid. Casey Taylor, The New Republic, "Inside the Hostage Crisis of America’s Dying Restaurants," 11 Dec. 2020 The following year, when Giuliani made his second run for City Hall, crime was his main theme. Tom Robbins, The New Yorker, "An Old Friend Remembers David Dinkins," 10 Dec. 2020

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for theme

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for theme

Last Updated

27 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Theme.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Mar. 2021.

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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 How to pronounce theme (audio) \

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on theme

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for theme

Nglish: Translation of theme for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of theme for Arabic Speakers

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