What does motley mean?

Definitions for motleyˈmɒt li

Here are all the possible meanings and translations of the word motley.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. assortment, mixture, mixed bag, miscellany, miscellanea, variety, salmagundi, smorgasbord, potpourri, motley(noun)

    a collection containing a variety of sorts of things

    "a great assortment of cars was on display"; "he had a variety of disorders"; "a veritable smorgasbord of religions"

  2. motley(noun)

    a garment made of motley (especially a court jester's costume)

  3. motley(adj)

    a multicolored woolen fabric woven of mixed threads in 14th to 17th century England

  4. assorted, miscellaneous, mixed, motley, sundry(a)(adj)

    consisting of a haphazard assortment of different kinds

    "an arrangement of assorted spring flowers"; "assorted sizes"; "miscellaneous accessories"; "a mixed program of baroque and contemporary music"; "a motley crew"; "sundry sciences commonly known as social"- I.A.Richards

  5. motley, calico, multicolor, multi-color, multicolour, multi-colour, multicolored, multi-colored, multicoloured, multi-coloured, painted, particolored, particoloured, piebald, pied, varicolored, varicoloured(verb)

    having sections or patches colored differently and usually brightly

    "a jester dressed in motley"; "the painted desert"; "a particolored dress"; "a piebald horse"; "pied daisies"

  6. vary, variegate, motley(verb)

    make something more diverse and varied

    "Vary the menu"

  7. motley, parti-color(verb)

    make motley; color with different colors


  1. motley(Noun)

    A jester's multicoloured clothes

  2. motley(Noun)

    An incongruous mixture

  3. motley(Adjective)

    Comprising greatly varied elements, to the point of incongruity; heterogeneous

  4. motley(Adjective)

    Having many colours; variegated

Webster Dictionary

  1. Motley(adj)

    variegated in color; consisting of different colors; dappled; party-colored; as, a motley coat

  2. Motley(adj)

    wearing motley or party-colored clothing. See Motley, n., 1

  3. Motley(noun)

    composed of different or various parts; heterogeneously made or mixed up; discordantly composite; as, motley style

  4. Motley(noun)

    a combination of distinct colors; esp., the party-colored cloth, or clothing, worn by the professional fool

  5. Motley(noun)

    hence, a jester, a fool

  6. Origin: [OE. mottelee, motle; cf. OF. mattel clotted, curdled, OF, ciel mattonn a mottled sky, mate, maton, curdled milk, Prov. G. matte curd. Cf. Mottle.]


  1. Motley

    Motley refers to the traditional costume of the court jester, or the harlequin character in commedia dell'arte. The latter wears a patchwork of red, green and blue diamonds that is still a fashion motif. The word motley is described in the Oxford English Dictionary as a cognate with medley, although the unrelated mottled has also contributed to the meaning. The word is most commonly used as an adjective or noun, but is also seen as a verb and adverb. When used as a noun, it can mean "a varied mixture." As an adjective, it is generally disparaging — a motley collection is an uninspiring pile of stuff, as in the cliche motley crew. The word originated in England between the 14th and 17th centuries and referred to a woolen fabric of mixed colors. It was the characteristic dress of the professional fool. During the reign of Elizabeth I, motley served the important purpose of keeping the fool outside the social hierarchy and therefore not subject to class distinction. Since the fool was outside the dress laws, the fool was able to speak more freely. Likewise, motley did not have to be checkered and has been recently thought to be one pattern with different colored threads running through it.

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. Motley

    mot′li, adj. covered with spots of different colours: consisting of different colours: composed of various parts, heterogeneous.—n. clothes made of pieces of different colours: the dress of a jester: any mixture, esp. of colours.—adj. Mot′ley-mind′ed (Shak.), having fickle and foolish thoughts and feelings.—Man of motley, a jester. [Skeat explains M. E. mottelee as through O. Fr. mattelé, clotted, curdled—Bavarian matte, curds.]


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of motley in Chaldean Numerology is: 6

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of motley in Pythagorean Numerology is: 9

Sample Sentences & Example Usage

  1. William Shakespeare:

    I met a fool i' the forest, A motley fool.

  2. Ian Graham:

    She's a shining light, hardworking and with an integrity that the rest of the motley crew in British politics just doesn't have.

Images & Illustrations of motley

  1. motleymotleymotley

Translations for motley

From our Multilingual Translation Dictionary

  • сыбарBashkir
  • bunt zusammengeworfen, bunt, vielfarbig, zusammengewürfeltGerman
  • mezcolanza, abigarrado, batiburrilloSpanish
  • آمیخته, رنگارنگ, ناهمگونPersian
  • sekalainen, kirjavaFinnish
  • पंचमेलHindi
  • multicolore, eterogeneo, variegatoItalian
  • 雑色Japanese
  • bontDutch
  • мешанина, разношёрстный, пестрота, разноцветный, пёстрыйRussian

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