1 consisting of a haphazard assortment of different kinds (even to the point of incongruity); "an arrangement of assorted spring flowers"; "assorted sizes"; "miscellaneous accessories"; "a mixed program of baroque and contemporary music"; "a motley crew"; "sundry sciences commonly known as social"- I.A.Richards [syn: assorted, miscellaneous, mixed, sundry(a)]
2 having sections or patches colored differently and usually brightly; "a jester dressed in motley"; "the painted desert"; "a particolored dress"; "a piebald horse"; "pied daisies" [syn: calico, multicolor, multicolour, multicolored, multicoloured, painted, particolored, particoloured, piebald, pied, varicolored, varicoloured]
1 a collection containing a variety of sorts of things; "a great assortment of cars was on display"; "he had a variety of disorders"; "a veritable smorgasbord of religions" [syn: assortment, mixture, mixed bag, miscellany, miscellanea, variety, salmagundi, smorgasbord, potpourri]
2 a garment made of motley (especially a court jester's costume)
3 a multicolored woolen fabric woven of mixed threads in 14th to 17th century England
2 make motley; color with different colors [syn: parti-color]
Comprising greatly varied elements
- Finnish: sekalainen
Having many colours; variegated
- Finnish: kirjava
Motley refers to the traditional costume of the court jester or the harlequin character in commedia dell'arte. The latter wears a patchwork of red, green and blue diamonds that is still a fashion motif.
The word motley is described in the Oxford English Dictionary as a cognate with medley, although the unrelated mottled has also contributed to the meaning. The word is most commonly used as an adjective or noun, but is also seen as a verb and adverb. When used as a noun, it can mean "a varied mixture."
The word originated in England between the 14th and 17th centuries and referred to a woolen fabric of mixed colors. It was the characteristic dress of the professional fool. During the reign of Elizabeth I, motley served the important purpose of keeping the fool outside the social hierarchy and therefore not subject to class distinction. Since the fool was outside the dress laws (sumptuary law), the fool was able to speak more freely.
Likewise, motley did not have to be checkered and has been recently thought to be one pattern with different colored threads running through it.
- National Guild of Jesters (UK) Hall of Fame. Various examples of motley.
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