mother of all, the greatest or most notable example of: the mother of all mystery novels.

Origin of mother

before 900; Middle English mother, moder, Old English mōdor; cognate with Dutch moeder, German Mutter, Old Norse mōthir, Latin māter, Greek mḗtēr, Sanskrit mātar-. As in father, th was substituted for d, possibly on the model of brother
Related formsmoth·er·less, adjectivemoth·er·less·ness, nounun·moth·ered, adjective

Synonyms for mother Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for motherless

Contemporary Examples of motherless

  • When Motherless Brooklyn won the National Book Critics Circle Award, I felt I could exhale, after working frenetically.

    The Daily Beast logo
    How I Write: Jonathan Lethem

    Noah Charney

    September 25, 2013

  • Motherless babies are far less likely than others to survive their first two years.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Christy Turlington's Labor of Love

    Michelle Goldberg

    June 9, 2010

  • Behind these statistics are the stories of promising lives cut short and of the motherless children left behind.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Fight for Women's Lives

    The Daily Beast

    September 25, 2009

Historical Examples of motherless

  • For a moment he felt as if Vere were bereaved, were motherless.

    A Spirit in Prison

    Robert Hichens

  • "God bless my motherless girl," he said, in a voice no louder than a breath.

    The Manxman

    Hall Caine

  • Her little daughter will be motherless, our home will be broken up.

  • My child––what will she do––poor, motherless, fatherless girl––all alone, all alone––.

    The Strollers

    Frederic S. Isham

  • Motherless—old Billy, a poor shote, according to the gossip!

    Janet of the Dunes

    Harriet T. Comstock

British Dictionary definitions for motherless



not having a mother


Australian informal (intensifier)motherless broke




  1. a female who has given birth to offspring
  2. (as modifier)a mother bird
(often capital, esp as a term of address) a person's own mother
a female substituting in the function of a mother
(often capital) mainly archaic a term of address for an old woman
  1. motherly qualities, such as maternal affectionit appealed to the mother in her
  2. (as modifier)mother love
  3. (in combination)mothercraft
  1. a female or thing that creates, nurtures, protects, etc, something
  2. (as modifier)mother church; mother earth
a title given to certain members of female religious ordersmother superior
Christian Science God as the eternal Principle
(modifier) native or innatemother wit
offensive, taboo, slang, mainly US short for motherfucker offensive
be mother to pour the teaI'll be mother
the mother of all … informal the greatest example of its kindthe mother of all parties

verb (tr)

to give birth to or produce
to nurture, protect, etc as a mother
Related formsRelated adjective: maternal
Derived Formsmothering, noun

Word Origin for mother

Old English mōdor; compare Old Saxon mōdar, Old High German muotar, Latin māter, Greek mētēr




a stringy slime containing various bacteria that forms on the surface of liquids undergoing acetous fermentation. It can be added to wine, cider, etc to promote vinegar formationAlso called: mother of vinegar
Derived Formsmothery, adjective

Word Origin for mother

C16: perhaps from mother 1, but compare Spanish madre scum, Dutch modder dregs, Middle Low German modder decaying object, mudde sludge
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

Word Origin and History for motherless

Old English moderleas; see mother (n.) + -less.



Old English modor "female parent," from Proto-Germanic *mothær (cf. Old Saxon modar, Old Frisian moder, Old Norse moðir, Danish moder, Dutch moeder, Old High German muoter, German Mutter), from PIE *mater- "mother" (cf. Latin mater, Old Irish mathir, Lithuanian mote, Sanskrit matar-, Greek meter, Old Church Slavonic mati), "[b]ased ultimately on the baby-talk form *mā- (2); with the kinship term suffix *-ter-" [Watkins]. Spelling with -th- dates from early 16c., though that pronunciation is probably older.

Mother nature first attested c.1600; mother earth is from 1580s. Mother tongue "one's native language" first attested late 14c. Mother of all ________ 1991, is Gulf War slang, from Saddam Hussein's use in reference to the coming battle; it is an Arabic idiom (as well as an English one), cf. Ayesha, second wife of Muhammad, known as Mother of Believers. Mother Carey's chickens is late 18c. sailors' nickname for storm petrels, or for snowflakes. Mother lode attested by c.1882, from mining [1849].



1540s, "to be the mother of," from mother (n.1). Meaning "to take care of" is from 1863. Related: Mothered; mothering.



"a thick substance concreting in liquors; the lees or scum concreted" [Johnson], probably from Middle Dutch modder "filth, dregs," from PIE *meu- (see mud).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

motherless in Medicine




A woman who conceives, gives birth to, or raises and nurtures a child.
A female parent of an animal.
A structure, such as a mother cell, from which other similar bodies are formed.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with motherless


In addition to the idiom beginning with mother

  • mother of

also see:

  • necessity is the mother of invention
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.