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See also: thème



From Middle English teme, from Old French teme, tesme (French thème), from Latin thema, from Ancient Greek θέμα (théma), from τίθημι (títhēmi, I put, place), reduplicative from Proto-Indo-European *dʰeh₁- (to put, place, do) (whence also English do).


  • IPA(key): /θiːm/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: theme
  • Rhymes: -iːm (for all senses)
  • Rhymes: -iːmi (for the sense dealing with the Byzantine empire only) (Can we verify(+) this pronunciation?)


theme (plural themes)

  1. A subject, now especially of a talk or an artistic piece; a topic.
    • 1828, James Hogg, Mary Burnet
      "Had not you once a beautiful daughter, named Mary?" said the stranger.
      "It is a heartrending question, man," said Andrew; "but certes, I had once a beloved daughter named Mary."
      "What became of her?" asked the stranger.
      Andrew shook his head, turned round, and began to move away; it was a theme that his heart could not brook.
  2. A recurring idea; a motif.
  3. (dated) An essay written for school.
    • 1917, James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:
      Father Dolan came in today and pandied me because I was not writing my theme.
  4. (music) The main melody of a piece of music, especially one that is the source of variations.
  5. (film, television) A song, or a snippet of a song, that identifies a film, a TV program, a character, etc. by playing at the appropriate time.
  6. (computing, figuratively) The collection of color schemes, sounds, artwork etc., that "skin" an environment towards a particular motif.
  7. (grammar) The stem of a word.
  8. (linguistics) thematic relation of a noun phrase to a verb.
  9. (linguistics) Theta role in generative grammar and government and binding theory.
  10. (linguistics) Topic, what is generally being talked about, as opposed to rheme.
  11. A regional unit of organisation in the Byzantine empire.

Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


theme (third-person singular simple present themes, present participle theming, simple past and past participle themed)

  1. (transitive) To give a theme to.
    We themed the birthday party around superheroes.
  2. (computing, transitive) To apply a theme to; to change the visual appearance and/or layout of (software).



Middle English[edit]

Etymology 1[edit]


theme (plural themes)

  1. Alternative form of teme (topic)

Etymology 2[edit]



  1. Alternative spelling of þeme (them)