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

  • n. See blackbird.
  • adj. Having a reddish or bluish gray coat streaked or speckled with black. Used of certain dogs.
  • n. A dog with a merle coat.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The European blackbird Turdus merula; any blackbird.
  • n. A type of mottled colouration on dogs.


Middle English, from Old French, from Latin merulus, merula.
Perhaps from merle1.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From the taxonomic name; from Latin turdus ("thrush") and merula ("blackbird"), giving rise to the French merle. (Wiktionary)



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  • My darling is a jewel of a girl
    But, blotched and mottled, is no pearl.
    Spotless robes are folly
    In a hardworking collie,
    So Lassie prefers her coat of merle.

    August 26, 2014

  • "Merle is a color combination in dogs’ coats. It is a solid base color (usually red/brown or black) with lighter blue/gray or reddish patches, which gives a mottled or uneven speckled effect. Although most breeds that can have merle coats also typically have white markings (such as around the neck, under the belly, and so on), and often tan points (typically between the white and the darker parts of the coat), these are separate colors from the merle; some dogs do appear completely merled with no white or tan markings.

    Merle can also alter other colors and patterns besides the usual red or black. These combinations such as Brindle Merle or Liver Merle are not typically accepted in breed standards.

    In addition to altering base coat color, merle also modifies eye color and coloring on the nose and paw pads. The merle gene modifies the dark pigment in the eyes, occasionally changing dark eyes to blue, or part of the eye to be colored blue. Since merle causes random modifications, however, both dark-eyed, blue-eyed, and odd-colored eyes. Color on paw pads and nose may be mottled pink and black."


    January 25, 2008