1: a melodic phrase or figure that accompanies the reappearance of an idea, person, or situation in a music drama
2: a dominant recurring theme
Did You Know?
The English word leitmotif (or leitmotiv, as it is also spelled) comes from the German Leitmotiv, meaning “leading motive,” and is formed from the verb leiten (“to lead”) and the noun Motiv (“motive”). In its original sense, the word applies to opera music; it was first used by writers interpreting the works of composer Richard Wagner, who was famous for associating a melody with a character or important dramatic element. Leitmotif is still commonly used with reference to music and musical drama but it is now also used more broadly to refer to any recurring theme in the arts or in everyday life.
The overcoming of obstacles and a love of theater are the two leitmotifs of her autobiography.
“The panther has been Cartier’s leitmotif for more than a century. The first time the Paris-based jewelry company … alluded to the graceful jungle cat was in 1914, when the house created a women’s platinum wristwatch with a case that resembled an abstracted version of the elegant animal’s spots, in onyx and diamonds.” — Nancy Hass, The New York Times, 26 Aug. 2020