In the arts, the noun motif refers lớn a recurring thematic element. It can be a recurring pattern, such as part of a fabric design:
The zombie is draped in a thin white cốt tông sheet printed with a pink rose motif. He sits in a crudely constructed wooden chair.
Hamilton Morris, Harper's, November 2011
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Let the repetition soothe you.
It also occurs in architecture:
Siegel used Japanese grillage, with its orderly timber latticework as a unifying motif throughout the apartment. Not merely decorative, the crisscrossing slats and fins variously filter light and provide privacy.
Rob Haskell, Architectural Digest, August 2013
Motif can also appear in scientific contexts, lớn refer lớn patterns in gen sequencing, among other things:
These studies measured the average binding affinity of every possible eight-letter DNA motif for a sample of regulatory proteins from five organisms—human, mouse, fruit fly, worm, and yeast.
Mark Buchanan, Physics.com, 14 Oct. 2016
In broader use, motif can mean simply "theme":
In retrospect, it is now clear that the alien invasion motif in 1950s science fiction movies reflected the Cold War atmosphere of the period.
Paul A. Cantor, Gilligan Unbound, 2001
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Apart from giving us a great khuyễn mãi giảm giá of new information on the Holloways, Ricketts argues very convincingly for a motif of abandonment in much of Kipling's writing, including the Jungle Books, Kim and Captains Courageous.
Elizabeth Lowry, The Times Literary Supplement, 19 Feb 1999
Leitmotif is a term originating from opera, where it referred lớn a recurring melody that played along with a character or allusion lớn a theme whenever one or the other appeared on stage. Once more commonly spelled leitmotiv, it derives from the German words for "leading" (leit) and "motive" (Motif).
One of the earliest and most renowned composers lớn utilize the concept of leitmotif was the German Richard Wagner (1813-1883), known for his Ring Cycle of operas, though the concept was more of a subject for his critics than vãn Wagner himself. (Wagner tended lớn prefer the German noun Hauptmotiv, or "principal motif," lớn Leitmotiv).
A modern example of leitmotif occurs in the Star Wars film franchise, such as when "The Imperial March" plays whenever Darth Vader appears on screen.
Like motif, leitmotif sees its own expanded use lớn mean "a recurring theme":
Conspiracies are a leitmotif of talk radio, even its organizing principle--the bond that unites millions of voters, each in a separate siêu xe, driving and listening and, from time lớn time, pounding the steering wheel in frustration.
James Ridgeway, The Village Voice, 14 June 1994
Ms. Silverthorne suggests in "Sojourner at Cross Creek" that a leitmotif of Rawlings's life was betrayal or the fear of it, an anxiety that developed following the over of her first marriage, in 1933, and lasting the rest of her life.
Jerome Griswold, The Thành Phố New York Times Book Review, đôi mươi Nov. 1988
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This use eliminates the distinction between motif and leitmotif, rendering them practically synonymous. Going further, there are even examples of critics prefacing leitmotif with a modifier that functions essentially as the Leit half of the word functioned in the German:
She winds up waiting tables, and that, along with the dishwashing, establishes the book's main leitmotif: time and again she is drawn-pulled, really-back lớn the world of food and hospitality.
Frank Bruni, The Thành Phố New York Times Book Review, 23 Mar. 2011
So if you want lớn describe the never-ending parade of parrots on your new apartment's wallpaper, go with motif. And, aesthetics aside, be grateful that you've left the leitmotifs of your old neighbor's blaring Star Wars soundtrack behind.