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leitmotif

/ˈlaɪtməʊˌtiːf/
noun
1.
(music) a recurring short melodic phrase or theme used, esp in Wagnerian music dramas, to suggest a character, thing, etc
2.
an often repeated word, phrase, image, or theme in a literary work
Word Origin
C19: from German leitmotiv leading motif
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
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