\ ˈmōt How to pronounce mote (audio) \

Definition of mote

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a small particle : speck motes danced in the shafts of sunlight— Margaret Kennedy

Definition of mote (Entry 2 of 2)

: may, might

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Examples of mote in a Sentence

Noun there's not a mote of dirt in that woman's house
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The recipe is based on Colombia’s traditional mote de queso. Washington Post, "Remember Blend 111? Forget its debut and feast on its much-improved second act.," 24 Dec. 2020 Cling to a mote of integrity, and Trump will destroy your political fortunes with a tweet. al, "The Biggest Phony," 20 Dec. 2020 Even in the narrow disk, which is less than half an inch wide, Trichoplax is so small that finding it with the naked eye is like searching for a dust mote in a gymnasium. Emily Underwood, The Atlantic, "The Search for the World’s Simplest Animal," 8 June 2020 But the superconducting sensors could measure only the average field across the zircons, which are as small as motes of dust. Paul Voosen, Science | AAAS, "Diamond microscope reveals slow crawl of Earth’s ancient crust," 22 Apr. 2020 The larvae, which live in the water, attach themselves to rocks by one end, and use feathery appendages at the other end as a kind of net to catch the tiniest bits of edible detritus — motes that are too small for fish and other insects. James Gorman, New York Times, "Meet the Bloodsuckers," 28 Oct. 2019 Viruses infiltrate every aspect of our natural world, seething in seawater, drifting through the atmosphere, and lurking in miniscule motes of soil. Lynn Johnson, National Geographic, "See the Full Archive," 15 Apr. 2020 At the top, a half-open door emits a cloud of sparkly dust motes or tiny stars that may at first escape your notice. Roberta Smith, New York Times, "Noah Davis Is Gone; His Paintings Continue to Hypnotize," 6 Feb. 2020 Reality was droning on as usual, with impartial sunlight streaming through a nearby window and picking out swirls of dust motes. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, "The Art of Dying," 16 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mote.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of mote


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Auxiliary verb

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for mote


Middle English mot, from Old English; akin to Middle Dutch & Frisian mot sand

Auxiliary verb

Middle English, from Old English mōtan to be allowed to — more at must

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Time Traveler for mote

Time Traveler

The first known use of mote was before the 12th century

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Statistics for mote

Last Updated

9 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Mote.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.

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More Definitions for mote



English Language Learners Definition of mote

old-fashioned : a very small piece of dust, dirt, etc.


\ ˈmōt How to pronounce mote (audio) \

Kids Definition of mote

: a small particle : speck a mote of dust

More from Merriam-Webster on mote

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mote

Nglish: Translation of mote for Spanish Speakers

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