1. a subject of discourse, discussion, meditation, or composition; topic: The need for world peace was the theme of the meeting.
  2. a unifying or dominant idea, motif, etc., as in a work of art.
  3. a short, informal essay, especially a school composition.
  4. Music.
    1. a principal melodic subject in a musical composition.
    2. a short melodic subject from which variations are developed.
  5. Grammar. the element common to all or most of the forms of an inflectional paradigm, often consisting of a root with certain formative elements or modifications.Compare stem1(def 16).
  6. Linguistics. topic(def 4).
  7. Also thema. an administrative division of the Byzantine Empire.


  1. having a unifying theme: a theme restaurant decorated like a spaceship.

verb (used with object), themed, them·ing.

  1. to provide with a theme.


  1. an idea or topic expanded in a discourse, discussion, etc
  2. (in literature, music, art, etc) a unifying idea, image, or motif, repeated or developed throughout a work
  3. music a group of notes forming a recognizable melodic unit, often used as the basis of the musical material in a composition
  4. a short essay, esp one set as an exercise for a student
  5. linguistics the first major constituent of a sentence, usually but not necessarily the subject. In the sentence history I do like, “history” is the theme of the sentence, even though it is the object of the verb
  6. grammar another word for root 1 (def. 9), stem 1 (def. 9)
  7. (in the Byzantine Empire) a territorial unit consisting of several provinces under a military commander
  8. (modifier) planned or designed round one unifying subject, image, etca theme holiday


  1. (tr) to design, decorate, arrange, etc, in accordance with a theme

n.c.1300, from Old French tesme (13c., with silent -s-), from Latin thema “a subject, thesis,” from Greek thema “a proposition, subject, deposit,” literally “something set down,” from root of tithenai “put down, place,” from PIE root *dhe- “to put, to do” (see factitious). Extension to music first recorded 1670s; theme song first attested 1929. Theme park is from 1960. A central idea in a piece of writing or other work of art: “The theme of desperation is found throughout his novels.” Also a short composition assigned to a student as a writing exercise.

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