1 of 2


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


2 of 2

auxiliary verb

: may, might

Example Sentences

Noun there's not a mote of dirt in that woman's house
Recent Examples on the Web
The world’s smallest battery is smaller than a dust mote. Joshua Hawkins, BGR, 1 Mar. 2022 How lonely, and how far away everything is compared to that mote of dust. NBC News, 22 July 2021 George was nearly beyond retrieval, a tiny glint of a mote, like a wayward flea. Cynthia Ozick, The New Yorker, 14 June 2021 The mote also features a layer of special conductive film and a thin sheet of copper. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, 11 June 2021 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, 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, 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, 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, 15 Apr. 2020 See More

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.

Word History



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

First Known Use


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Auxiliary Verb

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near mote

Cite this Entry

“Mote.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition



: a small particle : speck

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