In the arts, a leitmotif is a recurring theme associated with a particular character, place, thing or idea in an opera.
If you notice a subject coming up again and again in a book you’re reading, if you hear a melodic tune repeated every now and then, or if you see a certain pattern in a work of art, this is called a leitmotif – a theme that recurs.
The noun leitmotif is most used when talking about music, and it usually comes up in the context of classical music, whenever a particular phrase or tune is repeated. The word comes from the German Leitmotiv, which literally means “lead motif,” or “guiding motif.”
Though leitmotif makes music experts think of Wagner’s operas when they hear it, it’s been around at least since Mozart’s time.