motif

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mo·tif / mōˈtēf/ • n. a decorative design or pattern: T-shirts featuring spiral motifs. ∎  a distinctive feature or dominant idea in an artistic or literary composition: the nautical motif of his latest novel. ∎  Mus. a short succession of notes producing a single impression; a brief melodic or rhythmic formula out of which longer passages are developed: the motif in the second violin is submerged by the first violin's countermelody. ∎  an ornament of lace, braid, etc., sewn separately on a garment. ∎  Biochem. a distinctive sequence on a protein or DNA, having a three-dimensional structure that allows binding interactions to occur.

motif

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motif (Fr.; Eng. motive; Ger. motiv). The shortest intelligible and self-existent melodic or rhythmic figure (e.g. the first 4 notes of Beethoven's 5th Sym.). Every ‘theme’ or ‘subject’ perhaps has several motifs, and almost every mus. passage will be found to be a development of some motif. But the word has, in mus. analysis, been used as a synonym for ‘theme’; and Wagner's extension of it to leitmotiv has further complicated the issue. The adjective ‘motivic’ is an invention of analytical writers, functional but ugly and better avoided.

motif

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motif XIX. — F., ‘MOTIVE’.

Motif

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MOTIF.

This entry includes two subentries:

Motif in Literature
Motif in Music