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Lexical Investigations: MotleyThe exact origin of motley is uncertain, but it’s likely to have come from the Middle English word mote, meaning “speck.” It makes sense then that mottled and speckled have similar meanings. Mottle is actually a back formation of motley. In the sixteenth century, the multicolored clothing worn by a fool or court jester became known as a motley. The phrase “motley fool” harkens back to …
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019