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[mot-l] /ˈmɒt l/
verb (used with object), mottled, mottling.
to mark or diversify with spots or blotches of a different color or shade.
a diversifying spot or blotch of color.
mottled coloring or pattern.
Origin of mottle
First recorded in 1670-80; probably back formation from motley
Related forms
mottlement, noun
mottler, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for mottling
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The mottling of the basal and median areas on this side is reddish-brown.

    The Butterfly Book William Jacob Holland
  • The game was in plenty at the spring, and mottling the grassy plain.

    The Scalp Hunters Mayne Reid
  • The broad petals have three purple lines at the base and a mottling of purple on either side.

    The Woodlands Orchids Frederick Boyle
  • The mottling may, therefore, be considered as a crystallisation of the soap, in which the impurity forms the colour.

  • There stole a grey pallor over his bull face, mottling all the red of the tropics and the flush of the wine.

  • Very seldom a stream of fresh sunshine broke through the gray, mottling the pavements with uncertain lights.

  • Those of you who have the telescopes can see this mottling quite distinctly through them if you look at the sun.

  • The points were the mottling of the face, the shape and colour of the eyes, the position of the ears, and the length of the tail.

  • Of the latter, a large drove of different kinds and colours could be seen, mottling the plain to some distance from the waggons.

    The Wild Huntress Mayne Reid
British Dictionary definitions for mottling


(transitive) to colour with streaks or blotches of different shades
a mottled appearance, as of the surface of marble
one streak or blotch of colour in a mottled surface
Word Origin
C17: back formation from motley
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 mottling



1670s, probably a back-formation from motley.


1670s; see mottle (n.). Related: Mottled; mottling.



1670s; see mottle (n.). Related: Mottled; mottling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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