Merriam Webster Word of the Day: Motley

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The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is motley. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Motley usually means “made up of many different people or things,” and often appears in the phrase “motley crew” or “motley mix.” It can also mean “variegated in color.”

// I love movies that feature a motley crew of characters putting aside their differences and coming together, whether for a heist or to save the world.

// Many of the jesters at the medieval festival were dressed in bright motley garb.

MOTLEY in Context

“As evidenced by Burmese pythons and ubiquitous iguanas, there’s a motley roster of nonnative reptile species surviving in Florida—three times the amount of indigenous species—but there are two in particular that are on the rise.” — Bill Kearney, The South Florida Sun Sentinel, 12 Aug. 2022

Did You Know?

The word motley wears many colorful hats, each having a distinct use. As an adjective it implies variety, be it in hues or humans. As a noun it can identify an eclectic variety, a multicolored fabric, a garment made from such a fabric, or the jester known for wearing such garments in the European courts of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The word’s origin is unknown, but some etymologists suspect that Middle English mot, meaning “mote” or “speck,” may be its source. There may be a speck of truth to that. Surely, etymologists (and lexicographers) don’t jest.

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