Definition of leitmotif in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈlītmōˌtēf/
(also leitmotiv)


A recurrent theme throughout a musical or literary composition, associated with a particular person, idea, or situation.
Example sentences
  • The constant struggle to make a living in the arts in New Zealand runs like a leitmotiv throughout the book.
  • The book of Jonah is a leitmotif in this novel for illustrating this idea.
  • The key leitmotiv throughout Richard Hooker's writings is the concept of order.


Late 19th century: from German Leitmotiv, from leit- 'leading' (from leiten 'to lead') + Motiv 'motive'.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: leit·mo·tif

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