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.