motley

1 of 2

adjective

mot·​ley ˈmät-lē How to pronounce motley (audio)
1
: variegated in color
a motley coat
2
: made up of many different people or things
a motley crowd
a motley collection of junk

motley

2 of 2

noun

1
: a woolen fabric of mixed colors made in England between the 14th and 17th centuries
2
: a garment made of motley
especially : the characteristic dress of the professional fool
3
4
: a mixture especially of incongruous elements

Examples of motley in a Sentence

Adjective a motley collection of junk a motley crew of musicians Noun the motleys with their colorful outfits a motley of old junk stored in the attic
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
Founded by a team of synch and licensing veterans with funding from a motley cast of investors, executives and entrepreneurs, the company is trying to build a better mousetrap that simplifies a time-consuming process and, possibly, reduces the threat from emerging technology. Glenn Peoples, Billboard, 16 Apr. 2024 Yes, 20 years since a motley group of Brits chose to ride out the zombie apocalypse at their local pub. Longreads, 12 Apr. 2024 With that, columns of Wide Awakes launched into the motley hecklers, swinging their torch staffs and clearing the square of some 200 troublemakers. Jon Grinspan, Smithsonian Magazine, 1 Apr. 2024 In prior decades, Indian governments had typically been motley coalitions held together by compromise. Ramachandra Guha, Foreign Affairs, 20 Feb. 2024 The pair also devised an ad that showed a motley Beetle constructed of green and beige fenders, a blue hood and a turquoise door, which were cobbled together from models between 1958 and 1964. Richard Sandomir, New York Times, 13 Mar. 2024 In those with lactose intolerance, the undisturbed lactose makes its way into the large intestine, where a motley assortment of gut microbes makes eager work of it. Max Bennett, Discover Magazine, 29 Jan. 2024 In the motley list of titles, books on biology intermingle with books about investments, travel, farming, philosophy, atlases and cures for chronic disease. Christian Thorsberg, Smithsonian Magazine, 12 Feb. 2024 America is a big, colorful, motley country, but Utah is a storied anomaly. Brian T. Allen, National Review, 20 Jan. 2024
Noun
Kaan kaan wu, with its motley of melds, is where these two tiles from different suits can be used in a clean-sweeping hand. Rudy Lee, New York Times, 17 Oct. 2023 This made us—with all our human, mortal limitations—rather like the God of all those past centuries of belief, or should that be credulity: the God who retained and stored away everything in his motley, moveless time, in which nothing was new or old, remote or recent. Margaret Jull Costa, Harper’s Magazine , 10 Apr. 2023 Its core remains a mystery, but scientists believe a motley of diffused elements that are heavier than helium are at the very center. María Luisa Paúl, Anchorage Daily News, 19 Dec. 2021 With a total team of 25 today, Schaper is trying to juggle a motley of distribution channels, each with their own unique needs and processes. Esha Chhabra, Forbes, 19 Dec. 2022 His tall, broad-shouldered hunchback stomps around the court in the multi-colored motley teasing his master and his henchmen with seeming good-natured gaiety. Bill Hirschman, sun-sentinel.com, 14 Mar. 2022 My father was a motley of sound, a funk band with bottomless drums and songs that knew nothing of fatigue. David Roderick, SFChronicle.com, 6 July 2018 This motley of topics swirls and eddies and reforms, with exchanges of goofy insults and gossipy asides about whoever happens to be absent from the field at the moment. Ben Brantley, New York Times, 11 Sep. 2016

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'motley.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Adjective

Middle English, perhaps from mot mote, speck

Noun

Middle English, probably from motley entry 1

First Known Use

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of motley was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near motley

Cite this Entry

“Motley.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/motley. Accessed 22 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

motley

1 of 2 adjective
mot·​ley ˈmät-lē How to pronounce motley (audio)
1
: having various colors
2
: composed of various often unlike kinds or parts
a motley collection of junk

motley

2 of 2 noun
1
a
: a garment of mixed colors worn by a court jester
2
: a mixture of different elements

Biographical Definition

Motley

biographical name

Mot·​ley ˈmät-lē How to pronounce Motley (audio)
John Lothrop 1814–1877 American historian

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