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

Example Sentences

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
Manfredi puts together his own motley crew that includes a cab driver (Jay Will) a bartender (Garrett Hedlund) and the owner of a legal marijuana dispensary (Martin Starr). Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY, 14 Nov. 2022 Megan’s second studio album, Traumazine, is a thrill ride of a listen, a motley mix of slick bops and searing confessionals that wonderfully encapsulate all of her various vibes. Will Dukes, Rolling Stone, 12 Aug. 2022 Instead, the Kremlin is trying to fill its manpower shortfall with a motley mix of Ukrainians from the separatist territories, mercenaries, and militarized National Guard units, and by promising large cash bonuses for volunteers. Eric Schmitt, BostonGlobe.com, 12 July 2022 This motley crew of 'hackers' performed online attacks on very sensitive Russian targets, targeting banks, civil aviation databases and even the Federal Security Service website. Yuriy Zaliznyak, ABC News, 11 Oct. 2022 Even the January 6 hearings revolve around a motley crew of partisan hacks and fringe legal figures. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 20 Sep. 2022 As evidenced by Burmese pythons and ubiquitous iguanas, there’s a motley roster of nonnative reptile species surviving in Florida — three times the amount of indigenous species — but there are two in particular that are on the rise. Bill Kearney, Sun Sentinel, 12 Aug. 2022 On this dance album, B brings together a motley crew of music royalty. Amel Mukhtar, Vogue, 29 July 2022 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
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, 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 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.

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

Podcast

Dictionary Entries Near motley

Cite this Entry

“Motley.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/motley. Accessed 29 Nov. 2022.

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

More from Merriam-Webster on motley

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


Odd Habits and Quirks

  • image1926873504
  • Which of the following best describes an easily irritated person?
Name That Thing

You know what it looks like… but what is it called?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ