Definition of motley in English:


Line breaks: mot¦ley
Pronunciation: /ˈmɒtli

adjective (motlier, motliest)


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  • 1 [usually in singular] An incongruous mixture: a motley of interacting interest groups
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    • Michael's first album ‘Missing You’ features an odd motley of styles carefully woven together and united by a great singing voice.
    • At the first shop Pam and I settle for a motley of 50s cutlery and kitchen tools.
    • Within the walls of the keep were a motley of low, stone buildings that housed the garrison, supplies, and mounts of the soldiers, engineers and tradesmen that made up the residents of the fortress.
  • 2 [mass noun] historical The multicoloured costume of a jester: life-size mannequins in full motley
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    • He is remarkable only for wearing his hair like a fool - literally looking like some doleful court jester in black and white motley with a fright-wig hairdo.
    • When the Duchess of Newcastle appears in public in outlandish attire or publishes her original views on women's position in society, she is not dressed in motley.
    • Clad in red, yellow, and green motley, he smirks at us through his fingers in the traditional gesture of one who ‘looks the other way’ in the face of wrongdoing.


late Middle English: of unknown origin; perhaps ultimately related to mote.

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