See also: thème



From Middle English teme, from Old French teme, tesme (French thème), from Latin thema, from Ancient Greek θέμα (théma), from τίθημι (títhēmi, I put, place), reduplicative from Proto-Indo-European *dʰeh₁- (to put, place, do) (whence also English do).


  • IPA(key): /θiːm/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: theme
  • Rhymes: -iːm (for all senses)
  • Rhymes: -iːmi (for the sense dealing with the Byzantine empire only) (Can we verify(+) this pronunciation?)


theme (plural themes)

  1. A subject, now especially of a talk or an artistic piece; a topic.
    • 1828, James Hogg, Mary Burnet
      "Had not you once a beautiful daughter, named Mary?" said the stranger.
      "It is a heartrending question, man," said Andrew; "but certes, I had once a beloved daughter named Mary."
      "What became of her?" asked the stranger.
      Andrew shook his head, turned round, and began to move away; it was a theme that his heart could not brook.
  2. A recurring idea; a motif.
  3. (dated) An essay written for school.
    • 1917, James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:
      Father Dolan came in today and pandied me because I was not writing my theme.
  4. (music) The main melody of a piece of music, especially one that is the source of variations.
  5. (film, television) A song, or a snippet of a song, that identifies a film, a TV program, a character, etc. by playing at the appropriate time.
  6. (computing, figuratively) The collection of color schemes, sounds, artwork etc., that "skin" an environment towards a particular motif.
  7. (grammar) The stem of a word.
  8. (linguistics) thematic relation of a noun phrase to a verb.
  9. (linguistics) Theta role in generative grammar and government and binding theory.
  10. (linguistics) Topic, what is generally being talked about, as opposed to rheme.
  11. A regional unit of organisation in the Byzantine empire.

Related termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


theme (third-person singular simple present themes, present participle theming, simple past and past participle themed)

  1. (transitive) To give a theme to.
    We themed the birthday party around superheroes.
  2. (computing, transitive) To apply a theme to; to change the visual appearance and/or layout of (software).



Middle EnglishEdit

Etymology 1Edit


theme (plural themes)

  1. Alternative form of teme (topic)

Etymology 2Edit



  1. Alternative spelling of þeme (them)