motley

adjective
mot·​ley | \ ˈmät-lē How to pronounce motley (audio) \

Definition of motley

 (Entry 1 of 3)

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

noun

Definition of motley (Entry 2 of 3)

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 : jester, fool
4 : a mixture especially of incongruous elements

Motley

biographical name
Mot·​ley | \ ˈmät-lē How to pronounce Motley (audio) \

Definition of Motley (Entry 3 of 3)

John Lothrop 1814–1877 American historian

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Motley Might Have Roots in Middle English

Adjective

Motley made its debut as an English adjective in the 14th century, but etymologists aren't completely sure where it came from. Many think it probably derived from the Middle English mot, meaning "mote" or "speck." The word is also used as a noun identifying a multicolored fabric, a garment made from such a fabric, or-perhaps the best known sense of all-the fool who often wore such outfits in the European courts of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective By contrast, the good people of Blaenavon are a motley crew that includes loudmouths, armchair experts, little old ladies, and one tediously unfunny comic old-timer (Karl Johnson). BostonGlobe.com, 19 May 2021 Last week, our trending stock lists collected a motley crew of companies ranging from biotech to regular tech to home entertainment tech. Q.ai - Investing Reimagined, Forbes, 17 May 2021 Billy Beane; in Flashboys, a stock market reformer named Brad Katsuyama; and in The Big Short, a motley assortment of non-comforming finance industry insiders. Karl Vick, Time, 3 May 2021 The pair, long-Time YouTube celebrities known for food videos, internet crafts, and managing their motley pack of loveably weird dogs, have reportedly been together since 2013. Halle Kiefer, Vulture, 16 Apr. 2021 Their traveling party becomes a motley heroic crew, picking up a 10-year-old shrimp boat captain (Izaac Wang), a toddler con artist and a gruff lonely dude (Benedict Wong). Brian Truitt, Detroit Free Press, 6 Mar. 2021 Their traveling party becomes a motley heroic crew, picking up a 10-year-old shrimp boat captain (Izaac Wang), a toddler con artist and a gruff lonely dude (Benedict Wong). Brian Truitt, Detroit Free Press, 6 Mar. 2021 Outside the courthouse, a motley band of Black Lives Matter activists had commandeered the intersection of 3rd Avenue and 5th Street. Fox News, 5 Apr. 2021 Their traveling party becomes a motley heroic crew, picking up a 10-year-old shrimp boat captain (Izaac Wang), a toddler con artist and a gruff lonely dude (Benedict Wong). Brian Truitt, Detroit Free Press, 6 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'motley.' 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 motley

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for motley

Adjective

Middle English, perhaps from mot mote, speck

Noun

Middle English, probably from motley entry 1

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Time Traveler for motley

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries near motley

motive power

motivity

mot juste

motley

Motley

motley crew

motmot

Statistics for motley

Last Updated

23 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Motley.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/motley. Accessed 15 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for motley

motley

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of motley

usually disapproving : made up of many different people or things

motley

adjective
mot·​ley | \ ˈmät-lē How to pronounce motley (audio) \

Kids Definition of motley

: composed of various often unlike kinds or parts a motley collection of junk

More from Merriam-Webster on motley

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for motley

Nglish: Translation of motley for Spanish Speakers

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