Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search


English Wikipedia has articles on:


From French motif (1848), with the meaning of "main idea or theme". Doublet of motive.


  • IPA(key): /moʊˈtiːf/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -iːf


motif (plural motifs)

  1. A recurring or dominant element; a theme.
    See how the artist repeats the scroll motif throughout the work?
  2. (music) A short melodic passage that is repeated in several parts of a work.
  3. A decorative figure that is repeated in a design or pattern.
  4. (dressmaking) A decorative appliqué design or figure, as of lace or velvet, used in trimming.
  5. (crystallography) The physical object or objects repeated at each point of a lattice. Usually atoms or molecules.
  6. (chess) A basic element of a move in terms of why the piece moves and how it supports the fulfilment of a stipulation.
  7. (biochemistry) In a nucleotide or amino-acid sequence, pattern that is widespread and has, or is conjectured to have, a biological significance.

Related terms[edit]




From Late Latin mōtivus.



motif m (plural motifs)

  1. motive
    • 1836, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, chapter XL, in Louis Viardot, transl., L’Ingénieux Hidalgo Don Quichotte de la Manche, volume I, Paris: J[acques]-J[ulien] Dubochet et Cie, éditeurs, [], OCLC 763899327:
      Bien que la faim et le dénûment nous tourmentassent quelquefois, et même à peu près toujours, rien ne nous causait autant de tourment que d’être témoins des cruautés inouïes que mon maître exerçait sur les chrétiens. Chaque jour il en faisait pendre quelqu’un ; on empalait celui-là, on coupait les oreilles à celui-ci, et cela pour si peu de chose, ou plutôt tellement sans motif, que les Turcs eux-mêmes reconnaissaient qu’il ne faisait le mal que pour le faire, et parce que son humeur naturelle le portait à être le meurtrier de tout le genre humain.
      Even though hunger and destitution tormented us sometime, and even almost always, nothing caused us as much torment as being witnesses to the unheard-of cruelties that my master exercised on the Christians. Every day, he made someone hang; they impaled that one, they cut off this one's ears, and this for so little stuff, or rather so much without motive, that the Turks themselves recognized that he only did harm for the sake of it, and because his natural temperament brought him to be the murderer of the whole human race.
  2. motif
  3. pattern, design


  • Danish: motiv
  • English: motif
  • German: Motiv
  • Norwegian Bokmål: motiv
  • Norwegian Nynorsk: motiv
  • Swedish: motiv
  • Turkish: motif

Further reading[edit]