- A recurrent theme throughout a musical or literary composition, associated with a particular person, idea, or situation.
“Each character in the musical is paired with a leitmotif that plays when they enter the stage.”
“The color red was the leitmotif to pay attention to throughout the book.”
“A skilled composer can weave a leitmotif throughout each song and tie the pieces together.”
German, late 19th century
Why this word?
“Leitmotif” originated from the German word “leitmotiv,” and it describes a recurring theme that appears in a musical or literary composition, pointing to a particular person or idea. For example, a musical leitmotif for a character might play whenever that character appears onstage or is referenced. Or in a detective novel, a leitmotif (such as an object or a color) might be attached to scenes that reference clues. The German loanword was especially associated in its origination with the operatic works of Richard Wagner.
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