from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A flat-topped mound of earth, often made artificially in the Middle Ages, on which was built a wooden or stone defensive structure.
  • noun A copse or small stand of trees on a prairie.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun Local, U.S. A clump of trees in a prairie.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun a raised earth mound, often topped with a wooden or stone structure and surrounded with a ditch
  • noun US, dialect A clump of trees in a prairie.


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

[From French, from Old French mote, mound; see moat.]

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

[American Spanish mata, from Spanish, shrub, probably from Late Latin matta, mat; see mat.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old French motte ("mound, hillcock").


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  • Its ruined castle, dating from the end of the fourteenth century, with its lofty octagonal donjon, nearly a hundred feet high, standing on a high "motte" or artificial mound, has a most imposing appearance.

    Brittany & Its Byways Fanny Bury Palliser

  • By virtue of the same right, if the demesne of a lord was so placed that it had no natural height from which to survey its extent, his vassals were made to bring sufficient cart-loads of earth to raise a mound or "motte" of the requisite elevation.

    Brittany & Its Byways Fanny Bury Palliser

  • After passing over a hilly road we crossed a marsh which extends from Carentan to the sea, and reached a town called La Haye-du-Puits — a singular name derived from the custom in the middle ages of surrounding the "motte" or enclosure upon which the donjon was built, with a wooden palisade, or sometimes with a thick hedge formed of thorns and branches of trees interlaced: hence La Haye-du-Puits, La Haye-Pesnel, and others.

    Brittany & Its Byways Fanny Bury Palliser

  • In riding about the range it was very pleasant to find, as one constantly did, by the side of some "motte" (Texan for a considerable cluster of scrub growth), or beneath the shade of a great live-oak, or on the barren face of a divide, the little canvas A-tents of the herders, nestled cosily to circular pens for the sheep, and generally surrounded by brush to prevent the intrusion of inquisitive cattle.

    Lippincott's Magazine, October 1885 Various

  • The "motte" at which the cibolero had arrived was far apart from any of the others, and commanded a view of the river bottom on both sides for more than a mile's distance.

    The White Chief A Legend of Northern Mexico Mayne Reid 1850

  • Near them was a small "motte" of the _Nerium oleander_, a shrub about twelve feet high, loaded with beautiful blossoms.

    The Giraffe Hunters Mayne Reid 1850

  • "droit de motte," which empowered them, if a vassal (they were "serfs de motte") attempted to live out of his demesne, or to enter the service of another lord, to bring him back to his "motte," a cord round his neck, and inflict upon him corporal punishment.

    Brittany & Its Byways Fanny Bury Palliser

  • This page unsportingly suggests that the mound is a 13th-century motte which had nothing to do with Pepin, but I'll take my romance where I can find it, thanks.

    Dental development nwhyte 2010

  • October 7, 2009 at 5:15 pm teh cassel motte iz teh arfi–artyf– fake hill teh caslol uz bilt awn aifinkso.

    I can’t feel my butt. - Lolcats 'n' Funny Pictures of Cats - I Can Has Cheezburger? 2009

  • We (royal again) reinstated most of the lawn areas last year from over-ambitious but failed vegetable plots and currently the direction of the mown stripes is being laboured over, this in true Alan Clark motte and bailey style.

    40 entries from May 2007 2007


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  • An artificial or improved natural mound on which a castle was built. See also motte-and-bailey.

    For more detail: "An artificial round mound on which in the original Norman castles a wooden (later, stone) keep was constructed. Outside of this was an embanked bailey containing the great hall, stables, chapel, kitchen, etc. These were easily and cheaply constructed (they conscripted the local peasants to do the digging) by the Normans to subdue the native populace after the Conquest."

    August 25, 2008

  • Also a grove or clump of trees in prairie land or open country.

    January 12, 2009

  • "The simple motte and bailey the Conqueror had built to guard the river crossing had gone, its wooden palisade replaced by curtain walls, its keep grown into the accommodation, church, stables, mews, barracks, women's quarters, kitchens, laundry, vegetable and herb gardens, dairy, tiltyards, and gallows and lockup necessary for a sheriff administering a sizable, prosperous town."

    Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin, p 141 of the Berkley paperback edition

    February 27, 2012