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motif (n.)

"theme, predominant feature that recurs often in an artistic or dramatic work," 1848, from French motif "dominant idea, theme," from Medieval Latin motivus "moving, impelling," from past participle stem of movere "to move" (from PIE root *meue- "to push away"). Also a Middle English form of motive (late 14c.).

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Definitions of motif

motif (n.)
a design or figure that consists of recurring shapes or colors, as in architecture or decoration;
Synonyms: motive
motif (n.)
a theme that is repeated or elaborated in a piece of music;
Synonyms: motive
motif (n.)
a unifying idea that is a recurrent element in literary or artistic work;
Synonyms: theme
From wordnet.princeton.edu