Definition of theme noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//θiːm//
    ; NAmE NAmE//θiːm//
    Listening to music, Elements of a story, Pieces of music
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  1. 1  the subject or main idea in a talk, piece of writing or work of art North American literature is the main theme of this year's festival. The President stressed a favourite campaign theme—greater emphasis on education. The naked male figure was always the central theme of Greek art. The stories are all variations on the theme of unhappy marriage. CollocationsLiteratureBeing a writer write/​publish literature/​poetry/​fiction/​a book/​a story/​a poem/​a novel/​a review/​an autobiography become a writer/​novelist/​playwright find/​have a publisher/​an agent have a new book out edit/​revise/​proofread a book/​text/​manuscript dedicate a book/​poem to…Plot, character and atmosphere construct/​create/​weave/​weave something into a complex narrative advance/​drive the plot introduce/​present the protagonist/​a character describe/​depict/​portray a character (as…)/(somebody as) a hero/​villain create an exciting/​a tense atmosphere build/​heighten the suspense/​tension evoke/​capture the pathos of the situation convey emotion/​an idea/​an impression/​a sense of… engage the reader seize/​capture/​grip the (reader’s) imagination arouse/​elicit emotion/​sympathy (in the reader) lack imagination/​emotion/​structure/​rhythmLanguage, style and imagery use/​employ language/​imagery/​humour/(especially US English) humor/​an image/​a symbol/​a metaphor/​a device use/​adopt/​develop a style/​technique be rich in/​be full of symbolism evoke images of…/a sense of…/a feeling of… create/​achieve an effect maintain/​lighten the tone introduce/​develop an idea/​a theme inspire a novel/​a poet/​somebody’s work/​somebody’s imaginationReading and criticism read an author/​somebody’s work/​fiction/​poetry/​a text/​a poem/​a novel/​a chapter/​a passage review a book/​a novel/​somebody’s work give something/​get/​have/​receive a good/​bad review be hailed (as)/be recognized as a masterpiece quote a(n) phrase/​line/​stanza/​passage/​author provoke/​spark discussion/​criticism study/​interpret/​understand a text/​passage translate somebody’s work/​a text/​a passage/​a novel/​a poem See related entries: Elements of a story
  2. 2 (music) a short tune that is repeated or developed in a piece of music
  3. 3 = theme music the theme from ‘The Godfather’ See related entries: Listening to music, Pieces of music
  4. 4(old-fashioned, North American English) a short piece of writing on a particular subject, done for school
  5. 5 (linguistics) the part of a sentence or clause that contains information that is not new to the reader or audience compare rheme
  6. Word OriginMiddle English: via Old French from Latin thema, from Greek, literally ‘proposition’; related to tithenai ‘to set or place’.Extra examples He gave a talk on the theme of teenage unemployment. His later novels develop the theme of alienation. Most of the essays appear to be variations on a few central themes. Several familiar themes emerged from the discussion. The film’s haunting musical theme stayed in my head for days. The same themes run through all her novels. universal themes of love and loneliness He wrote and sang the theme to the hit TV series, ‘Minder’. His theme is played each time he appears on screen. North American literature is the main theme of this year’s festival. The trumpets’ theme is then taken up by the rest of orchestra.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: theme