1. Having elements of great variety or incongruity; heterogeneous: a motley collection of students at the coffee shop.
2. Having many colors; variegated; parti-colored: a motley tunic.
n. pl. mot·leys
1. The parti-colored attire of a court jester.
2. A heterogeneous, often incongruous mixture of elements.
[Middle English motlei, variegated cloth, variegated, probably from Anglo-Norman, probably from Middle English mot, speck; see MOTE1.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.