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[muhth -er-lee] /ˈmʌð ər li/
pertaining to, characteristic of, or befitting a mother; maternal:
motherly solicitude.
like a mother:
to take a motherly interest in an orphan.
in the manner of a mother.
Origin of motherly
before 1000; Middle English moderly, Old English mōdorlīc. See mother1, -ly
Related forms
motherliness, noun
unmotherly, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for motherly
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The landlady looked at him in a motherly way and shook her head.

    The White Company Arthur Conan Doyle
  • But Alice was supposed to be a widow; and Alice was so meek, so docile, so motherly.

    Alice, or The Mysteries, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • She looked at Good Indian afterward, studying his face with motherly solicitude.

    Good Indian B. M. Bower
  • I came down and threw myself, repentant and wretched, into her motherly arms.

    My Double Life Sarah Bernhardt
  • "Sweetheart, you mustn't fret," she soothed, in motherly fashion.

    The Gentleman From Indiana Booth Tarkington
  • She removed his clothes too, bullying him in a motherly way.

    L'Assommoir Emile Zola
  • Moreover, she communicated her tidings with all sorts of motherly precautions.

British Dictionary definitions for motherly


of or resembling a mother, esp in warmth, or protectiveness
Derived Forms
motherliness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for motherly

Old English modorlic "pertaining to a mother;" see mother (n.1) + -ly (1). Meaning "befitting a mother" is from mid-13c. Related: Motherliness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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