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

Definition of motley

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : variegated in color a motley coat
2 : made up of many different people or things a motley crowd a motley collection of junk



Definition of motley (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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 And a pair of vertical metal shelves contains a motley selection of titles, united only by the fact that all their authors have actually stayed with us. New York Times, 19 June 2022 From there, the list is a motley hodgepodge of Netflix originals and third-party titles. Andy Meek, BGR, 1 June 2022 Over the past few months, a new range of sanctions have begun rippling across the West, targeting a motley crew of Russian oligarchs, all of whom have profited from their relationship with the Kremlin and pushed Moscow’s interests abroad. Casey Michel, The New Republic, 27 Apr. 2022 Our motley crew of anthropomorphic criminals is resting on their laurels when a goading from the governor (Zazie Beetz) convinces Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell) to go for a needlessly high-risk score. Scott Mendelson, Forbes, 21 Apr. 2022 Sure, some folks keep their dogs in kennels, and these dogs may perform exceptionally well in field trials or excel in ways that put our motley pack to shame. Christine Cunningham, Anchorage Daily News, 25 Sep. 2021 Only five countries voted against the motion, a motley crew of Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea, Russia itself and Syria — hardly beacons of diplomacy. Washington Post, 7 Mar. 2022 This dark musical, with a book by John Weidman, assembles a motley crew of historical figures who have each attempted to assassinate a United States president. Los Angeles Times, 23 Feb. 2022 The Afterparty’s motley mix of forms tidily expresses that turmoil. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, 19 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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,, 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,, 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 See More

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.

First Known Use of motley


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for motley


Middle English, perhaps from mot mote, speck


Middle English, probably from motley entry 1

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

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mot juste



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Last Updated

28 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Motley.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for motley


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

Motley biographical name

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

Definition of Motley

John Lothrop 1814–1877 American historian

More from Merriam-Webster on motley

Nglish: Translation of motley for Spanish Speakers


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