A theme can be an underlying topic of a discussion or a recurring idea in an artistic work. Anxiety about getting married is a big theme in romantic comedies.

From ancient Greek thema (via Latin and French) we get this word, whose many related uses all have to do with the idea of "the main subject of something." In music, it can be a recurring melody in a composition, or an entire song throughout a play or film (a theme song). It can also describe the decor of a setting: "The amusement park had a Wild West theme."

Primary Meanings of theme

the subject matter of a conversation or discussion
provide with a particular theme or motive
(linguistics) the form of a word after all affixes are removed
Full Definitions of theme

n the subject matter of a conversation or discussion

“his letters were always on the theme of love”
subject, topic
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bone of contention
the subject of a dispute
a subject mentioned earlier (preceding in time)
head, question
the subject matter at issue
the principal theme in a speech or literary work
a question raised for consideration or solution
matter of fact, question of fact
a disputed factual contention that is generally left for a jury to decide
matter of law, question of law
a disputed legal contention that is generally left for a judge to decide
Type of:
content, message, subject matter, substance
what a communication that is about something is about

n a unifying idea that is a recurrent element in literary or artistic work

“it was the usual `boy gets girl' theme
a traditional theme or motif or literary convention
Type of:
idea, thought
the content of cognition; the main thing you are thinking about

n an essay (especially one written as an assignment)

composition, paper, report
term paper
a composition intended to indicate a student's progress during a school term
Type of:
an analytic or interpretive literary composition

n (music) melodic subject of a musical composition

“the theme is announced in the first measures”
idea, melodic theme, musical theme
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motif, motive
a theme that is repeated or elaborated in a piece of music
(music) the presentation of a musical theme
a repetition of a musical theme in which it is modified or embellished
obbligato, obligato
a persistent but subordinate motif
(counterpoint) a variation of a melody or part in which ascending intervals are replaced by descending intervals and vice versa
the statement of a theme in notes of greater duration (usually twice the length of the original)
the statement of a theme in notes of lesser duration (usually half the length of the original)
one of the variations contained in a partita
Type of:
air, line, melodic line, melodic phrase, melody, strain, tune
a succession of notes forming a distinctive sequence

v provide with a particular theme or motive

“the restaurant often themes its menus”
Type of:
furnish, provide, render, supply
give something useful or necessary to

n (linguistics) the form of a word after all affixes are removed

base, radical, root, root word, stem
Type of:
descriptor, form, signifier, word form
the phonological or orthographic sound or appearance of a word that can be used to describe or identify something

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