Definition of motif in English:

motif

noun

  • 1A decorative image or design, especially a repeated one forming a pattern:

    ‘the colourful hand-painted motifs which adorn narrowboats’
    • ‘Included are geometrics, florals and foliates, animals and nature motifs and other decorative repeat patterns.’
    • ‘Walking into the lobby, one is met with a mixture of Moorish fittings and Victorian interior design; the square pillars are adorned with Baroque motifs.’
    • ‘The design thus recalls interpenetrating circles as visual motifs found in his decorative work after 1910.’
    • ‘Particular attention was given to design motifs that were found in several art forms (pottery, architecture, textiles and so on).’
    • ‘Using cracked linen as a surface, she painted motifs that conjure up images of Italian frescoes and simulate the effects of time and weather.’
    • ‘Unlike the ceramics produced in other parts of the country, the ceramics from Sitiwinangun are rich in embossed decorations with various floral and plant motifs.’
    • ‘His recent paintings are not abstract evolutions of ancestral designs but oversized traditional motifs inscribed on a simplified ground.’
    • ‘It is decorated with motifs designed by local school children.’
    • ‘In addition to church furnishings and tombs, he specialized in the design of ornamental motifs, which he popularized in a series of engravings, 1548-77.’
    • ‘Some of these he roughly painted over with fish or flower motifs based upon traditional designs.’
    • ‘Its most characteristic theme was the use of sinuous asymmetrical lines based on plant forms; flower, leaf, and tendril motifs are common features, as are female figures with abundant flowing hair.’
    • ‘Some decorative motifs were redrawn by the teacher to emphasize the kinds of decorative motifs typical of these different cultures.’
    • ‘If you are a very classic dresser, I wouldn't recommend ties with motifs of animals or cartoons because they would probably come off as tacky and unattractive.’
    • ‘Crafted in gold or silver, medals were adorned with decorative motifs and appropriate inscriptions engraved by hand.’
    • ‘Her geometric paintings of the '60s and '80s, based on patterns and structured motifs, owe much to her background in textiles.’
    • ‘It is said that there are over 3,000 batik designs that include Indian, Chinese and Buddhist patterns including indigenous motifs of local fruits and flowers.’
    • ‘Their wood was carved with geometric patterns, especially a spiral motif (symbolising ‘mother earth’) similar to that on Georgian coins.’
    • ‘She uses a lot of wonderful patterns and motifs.’
    • ‘Stencils are available in a variety of motifs and designs from art and crafts supply stores.’
    • ‘The patterns and motifs are highly complex, ranging from starbursts and amoebic shapes to flowers and birds.’
    • ‘Some critics have suggested a direct connection between the traditional design motifs found in West African art forms and those of slave-descended Southern blacks.’
    design, pattern, decoration, figure, shape, logo, monogram, device, emblem, ornament
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    1. 1.1 A decorative device applied to a garment or textile:
      ‘floral or other motifs are then appliquéd to net veils’
      • ‘The man also wears a dark baseball cap with a motif on the front, light brown boots, and carries a dark coloured rucksack on his back.’
      • ‘According to Galia Dicheva, spokesperson for the royal family, the bride will stick to the Bulgarian traditional-style gown with some folklore motifs on her dress.’
      • ‘She was wearing black jeans, a red jumper with a lion motif and a black bodywarmer when she disappeared.’
      • ‘Several days were then spent learning how to sew the porcupine quills into decorative motifs on the clothing and attaching the silverberry seeds to the fringes.’
      • ‘The decorative embroidery motifs are typical of the period and include a castle, insects and large-scale floral designs probably derived from printed patterns.’
      • ‘You can cool off with fabrics that range from simple soft cottons with woven borders to hand-crushed silks with delicate embroidered motifs scattered all over the garment.’
      • ‘Satin mini-skirts abound in a range of wild colors, some embroidered with floral motifs.’
      • ‘Steamers are also found as a decorative motif on embroidered silk textiles.’
      • ‘The motif (golf, surf) can be customized to suit the distributor's customer.’
      • ‘He was wearing a light grey hooded top with a sports motif on the front and light grey bottoms.’
      • ‘He was last seen wearing a baseball cap with a crocodile motif, a black sweatshirt and dark blue jeans.’
      • ‘As head of the Embroidery Department she achieved international recognition for her designs, patterns and motifs particularly in Germany and Austria.’
      • ‘The business, based in Great Horton, was founded more than 150 years ago and specialises in the manufacture of jacquard machines, which are used to embroider names, motifs and symbols on to textiles.’
      emblem, symbol, logo, badge, stamp, trademark, crest, insignia, coat of arms, escutcheon, seal, mark, figure, design, rune, logotype, logogram, monogram, hallmark, tag, motto, token, colophon, ideogram
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  • 2A dominant or recurring idea in an artistic work:

    ‘superstition is a recurring motif in the book’
    • ‘A first group explores central themes in more than one of Roth's novels while others devote themselves to one text and the author's sophisticated presentation of themes and motifs.’
    • ‘Norman is far from cannibalizing his own writing, and there is nothing wrong with recurring motifs and characters that stretch from one work to the next.’
    • ‘There is no attempt to create a genre with recurring motifs like, for example, chick lit's shoes, sex, and Chardonnay.’
    • ‘Multi-faceted, open-ended and provocative, this is a film whose many parallel scenes, recurring motifs and curious ironies offer plenty of fuel for thought.’
    • ‘There may not be a metanarrative to this book, but certain repetitive motifs are discernible no matter how he retells human history.’
    • ‘The Dance of Death, which portrayed men and women of all classes dancing with a skeleton, became a popular artistic motif.’
    • ‘The motif of the globe recurs in other works by Georgiades.’
    • ‘Horses are one of the recurring motifs in Yeats's art, symbolic of loyalty, intelligence and the unbridled freedom of his early childhood.’
    • ‘She is currently at work on a book studying the sovereignty motif in Heaney's verse.’
    • ‘The first four episodes build in mystery as we try to piece together recurring motifs of corpses, shared food, reversals of power.’
    • ‘Themes and motifs interweave and recur, circling around each other, acquiring new associations with each repetition.’
    • ‘In similar fashion he attributed other thematic resemblances between New Comedy and Sanskrit plays to the presence of universal themes and motifs.’
    • ‘Those names, like everything in the book, echo the motif of hunger.’
    • ‘Chapter 1 introduces a series of motifs that recur in subsequent chapters and carry similar associations with them.’
    • ‘One of Hitchcock's recurring motifs concerns a woman who suspects a loved one of being a monster.’
    • ‘Obsession and addiction are recurring motifs, along with violent sex and occasional acts of extreme cruelty.’
    • ‘Together they reveal his visual language and the motifs that recur throughout his work.’
    • ‘Hawthorne uses several motifs to express a recurring idea throughout the novel.’
    • ‘The relationship between land, landscape, and technological progress has always been a dominant motif in the American experience and its telling.’
    • ‘Their elaborate dance of courtship, which cannot call itself by that name, is the film's central motif.’
    • ‘This distinctively narrative work presents a host of motifs that recur throughout Schreuders' printed works, including mermaids and sculpted figures.’
    theme, idea, concept, subject, topic, leitmotif, element, motive, trope
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    1. 2.1Music A leitmotif or figure (see figure (sense 5of the noun)):
      ‘in this opera, Verdi used identifying motifs’
      figure
      • ‘His operas reveal careful dramatic planning, and his use of recurring themes and motifs frequently creates conceptual and musical unity within a work.’
      • ‘The arrangements are intelligent without being fussy: tuneful refrains for cello and woodwind, beguiling motifs for piano and vibes, emotional guitar and restrained drums.’
      • ‘Musicologists know that Stravinsky mined collections of Russian folk music for motifs.’
      • ‘The work moves between quiet repetitive phrases for prepared piano and percussion to busy, Gamelan-like motifs for piano and digital synthesizer.’
      • ‘Counterpoint and repetition of motifs provide cohesiveness and musical logic.’
      theme, idea, concept, subject, topic, leitmotif, element, motive, trope
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  • 3Biochemistry
    A distinctive sequence on a protein or DNA, having a three-dimensional structure that allows binding interactions to occur.

    • ‘In principle, therefore, comparison of different haplotypes should permit the identification of sequence motifs that determine haplotype specificity.’
    • ‘Specifically, we defined two small but functionally important structural motifs within the Rux protein.’
    • ‘Early on, clustering was used to detect common three-dimensional structural motifs in proteins.’
    • ‘Each of the five proteins contains all four motifs, organized in the same order in the linear sequence.’
    • ‘In the absence of sequence motifs and proteins capable of directing transcription, the protein it encodes will remain invisible to selection.’
    • ‘Consequently, particular sets of correlated peptides serve to define particular sets of homologous protein motifs within the data set.’

Origin

Mid 19th century: from French.

Pronunciation:

motif

/məʊˈtiːf/