|1.||a distinctive idea, esp a theme elaborated on in a piece of music, literature, etc|
|2.||Also: motive a recurring form or shape in a design or pattern|
|3.||a single added piece of decoration, such as a symbol or name on a jumper, sweatshirt, etc|
|[C19: from French. See |
In literature, art, or music, a recurring set of words, shapes, colors, or notes. In the poem “The Raven,” by Edgar Allan Poe, for example, the word nevermore is a motif appearing at the end of each stanza. Likewise, the first four notes of the Fifth Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven are a motif that is developed and reshaped throughout the work.