Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Having elements of great variety or incongruity; heterogeneous: "Most Ivy League freshman classes are chosen from a motley collection of constituencies . . . and a bare majority of entering students can honestly be called scholars” ( New York Times).
  • adj. Having many colors; variegated; parti-colored: a motley tunic.
  • n. The parti-colored attire of a court jester.
  • n. A heterogeneous, often incongruous mixture of elements.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Comprising greatly varied elements, to the point of incongruity; heterogeneous
  • adj. Having many colours; variegated
  • n. A jester's multicoloured clothes
  • n. An incongruous mixture

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Variegated in color; consisting of different colors; dappled; party-colored.
  • adj. Wearing motley or party-colored clothing. See Motley, n., 1.
  • adj. Composed of different or various parts; heterogeneously made or mixed up; discordantly composite.
  • n. A combination of distinct colors; esp., the party-colored cloth, or clothing, worn by the professional fool.
  • n. Hence, a jester, a fool.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A habit made of pieces of cloth of different colors in glaring contrast: the usual dress of the jester or professional fool.
  • n.
  • n. A jester; a fool.
  • n. Any mixture, as of colors.
  • Party-colored; variegated in color; consisting of different colors: as, a motley coat.
  • Composed of or exhibiting a combination of discordant elements; heterogeneous in composition; diversified.
  • To variegate; give different colors to.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. consisting of a haphazard assortment of different kinds
  • adj. having sections or patches colored differently and usually brightly
  • n. a collection containing a variety of sorts of things
  • n. a garment made of motley (especially a court jester's costume)
  • v. make something more diverse and varied
  • n. a multicolored woolen fabric woven of mixed threads in 14th to 17th century England
  • v. make motley; color with different colors

Etymologies

Middle English motlei, variegated cloth, variegated, probably from Anglo-Norman, probably from Middle English mot, speck; see mote1.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

Wordnik is becoming a not-for-profit! Read our announcement here.

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • "Clothing is no longer a single cult which all must practise in the same way, only well or badly. One may now dress quixotically or sentimentally or satirically or gorgeously, at will. It is no longer necessary to wait for a costume party to get out the thirties dressing-gown embroidered with hollyhocks or that ragged Tunisian wedding dress. Everyone wears motley."
    - 'Hippies in Asia', Germaine Greer in Sunday Times, 1972.

    April 13, 2008

  • A varicolored woolen fabric of mixed threads.

    December 23, 2007