Definition of theme in English:

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Pronunciation: /THēm/


1The subject of a talk, a piece of writing, a person’s thoughts, or an exhibition; a topic: the theme of the sermon was reverence a show on the theme of waste and recycling
More example sentences
  • This major exhibition focuses on the theme of desire in Surrealist art.
  • The former church will host an installation-based exhibition on the theme of light, which will run from July to October.
  • So we decided to have an exhibition on the theme of illumination.
subject, topic, subject matter, matter, thesis, argument, text, burden, concern, thrust, message;
thread, motif, keynote
1.1 Linguistics The first major constituent of a clause, indicating the subject-matter, typically being the subject but optionally other constituents, as in “poor he is not.”. Contrasted with rheme.
Example sentences
  • In the theme-rheme structure, it is the theme that is the prominent element.
  • When a sentence has an indirect object, that constituent may also function as a marked theme, the focus of attention, by beginning the sentence.
1.2An idea that recurs in or pervades a work of art or literature.
Example sentences
  • Another important cause of tension was the persistent use of mythological themes in art and literature, in a society still devoted to Christianity.
  • Love, sex, duplicity, betrayal - the abiding themes of literature are all there, along with the fascinating twist that it's all going on under the watchful eye of the public.
  • The other day I glanced at the latest of these potted guides, which informed me that ‘childhood is a recurring theme in Scottish literature’.
1.3 Music A prominent or frequently recurring melody or group of notes in a composition.
Example sentences
  • There are motifs, themes, and recurring melodies, all the things you'd expect from one song blown up to forty minutes.
  • Written in the form of a theme and variations, Britten composed a central theme based on a melody by the first great English composer, Henry Purcell.
  • His operas reveal careful dramatic planning, and his use of recurring themes and motifs frequently creates conceptual and musical unity within a work.
1.4 [as modifier] (Of music) frequently recurring in or accompanying the beginning and end of a film, play, or musical: a theme song
More example sentences
  • The theme music of the film has become a hit with mobile users in town.
  • Pop stardom is simply not on his agenda, with film scores and theme music having significantly more appeal, and in his view, greater longevity in terms of a career.
  • It's a pleasure to hear the film's theme music and Nat King Cole's efforts so well presented.
song, theme song, jingle
1.5 [usually as modifier] A setting given to a leisure venue or activity, intended to evoke a particular country, historical period, culture, etc. a family fun park with a western theme a New Deal theme restaurant
More example sentences
  • The Restaurant has three themes - Railway, History and Country.
  • How any of this related to the theme of the restaurant I couldn't figure then and still can't.
  • The rustic Northern theme of the restaurant and the pleasant ambient sound combined to make a truly wonderful and very repeatable dining experience.
1.6US An essay written by a student on an assigned subject.
Example sentences
  • She had to write a theme once on what book she'd want to have with her if she were stranded on a desert island.
  • So how do I go about writing a theme?
  • Each student will write a theme on a topic chosen by the teacher or selected through a class activity such as brainstorming.
2 Linguistics The stem of a noun or verb; the part to which inflections are added, especially one composed of the root and an added vowel.
3 historical Any of the twenty-nine provinces in the Byzantine empire.
Example sentences
  • Other administrative units were devised in due course, such as the shires in England and the themes in Byzantium.


[with object]
Give a particular setting or ambience to (a venue or activity): (as adjective themed) Independence Day was celebrated with special themed menus [in combination]: a golf-themed business park
More example sentences
  • The garden party was one of three themed events chosen by the Queen to be part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations.
  • There will be prizes for the best costumes and street musicians and special themed events in the restaurants and pubs.
  • The money has been raised through fun weekends, tombola, raffles and special themed events.


Middle English: via Old French from Latin thema, from Greek, literally 'proposition'; related to tithenai 'to set or place'.

Words that rhyme with theme

abeam, agleam, beam, blaspheme, bream, deem, deme, downstream, dream, esteem, extreme, gleam, hakim, kilim, meme, midstream, Nîmes, régime, scheme, scream, seam, seem, steam, stream, supreme, team, teem, upstream

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: theme

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