A recurring element in a work of literature. It is usually a dominant idea or theme and can be an object, setting, or situation that has some symbolic significance and is seen several times within the story. For example, in Shakespeare's Macbeth, hallucinations, violence, and prophecy all act as motifs. Also, in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, the recurring presence of fire and ice is a motif.
The term is French in origin.