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

Some might say the Trump-Biden matchup was preordained, given the Democrats’ motley crew of candidates. Daniel Henninger, WSJ, "So It’s Trump vs. Biden in 2020?," 8 May 2019 In contrast to most of our previous Winners’ Circle contests, however, this quarter’s top-performing funds proved to be a motley group, with little in common. Suzanne Mcgee, WSJ, "The Best Stock-Fund Managers of 2018," 6 Jan. 2019 Revolution is impossible, until Vivian arrives and begins gathering a motley group of allies. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "All the science fiction and fantasy books we’re looking forward to in 2019," 30 Dec. 2018 Bulgari had gathered a motley crew of international stars to witness the spectacle. Monica Kim, Vogue, "Bella! Diplo! Davika! Suho! Bulgari Goes Global for Bzero1’s Fantastic Roman Festa," 20 Feb. 2019 This mainly involves talking to the motley crew of ghost scientists and the island’s owner / sole resident Martin. Michael Moore, The Verge, "The Haunted Island: a Frog Detective Game is a farcical tale of ghosts, vacations to Indonesia, and overzealous dental care," 23 Dec. 2018 Among the motley crew from New York, Boston, Cincinnati, and Seattle, who ranged in age and marital status, were some of Kluger's most devoted patrons. Pilar Guzmán, Condé Nast Traveler, "South Africa’s Other Big Five," 20 Dec. 2018 My family bought our van to make things easier for our motley crew of four, including my husband, myself, and our two kids ages six and three. Megan Barber, Curbed, "Why I love having a microwave in my camper van," 20 Dec. 2018 By the end, a motley band of warriors has been assembled to fight evil. New York Times, "Review: ‘Deadpool 2’ Has More Swearing, Slicing and Dicing from Ryan Reynolds," 14 May 2018

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, "State Lines: Rudy Francisco’s ‘In the Voice of Hip Hop’," 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, "Review: ‘The Wolves’: A Pack of Female Warriors, Each Determined to Score," 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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Dictionary Entries near motley

motive power

motivity

mot juste

motley

Motley

motley crew

motmot

Statistics for motley

Last Updated

15 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for motley

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

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on motley

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with motley

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for motley

Spanish Central: Translation of motley

Nglish: Translation of motley for Spanish Speakers

Comments on motley

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