[ muhth-er-lee ]
/ ˈmʌð ər li /
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See synonyms for: motherly / motherliness on Thesaurus.com

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.
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Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?

Origin of motherly

First recorded before 1000; Middle English moderly,Old English mōdorlīc.See mother1, -ly


moth·er·li·ness, nounun·moth·er·ly, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does motherly mean?

Motherly is an adjective that most commonly means like a mother. It’s especially used in a positive way to describe someone as being kind, nurturing, and protective—like a good mother who loves and cares for her child(ren).

Describing someone as motherly often implies that they listen and give good advice—it’s perhaps most commonly used in the phrase motherly advice.

The word maternal can be used to mean the same thing, but it can also be used in a more neutral way that doesn’t imply these positive things, and the same is true of the word parental (which can be used regardless of the parent’s gender).

Sometimes, motherly means of or suitable for a mother, as in motherly instincts.

Motherly is most often used to describe mothers themselves, but it can be applied to someone who’s not a mother, as in After my mom died, I started relying on Jane for motherly support. 

Motherly can be used as an adverb meaning in the manner of a mother, but this is not as common.

Motherly is one of many similar adjectives based on family relations, including fatherly, grandfatherly, grandmotherly, brotherly, and sisterly.

Example: When my stepmom first moved in with us, I could tell that she was trying really hard to be motherly, and it showed me that she cared.

Where does motherly come from?

The first records of the word motherly come from before 1000. The suffix -ly is often used to form adverbs, but in the case of motherly it means “like” (i.e., like a mother).

The common meaning of motherly is based not on any mother but on a good mother, one who is nurturing and compassionate. The phrase motherly advice typically refers to advice that’s wise, comes from experience, and is intended to help you be the best you can be. Such advice can come from one’s actual mother or from a mother figure.

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What are some other forms related to motherly?

  • motherliness (noun)
  • unmotherly (adjective)

What are some synonyms for motherly?

What are some words that share a root or word element with motherly


What are some words that often get used in discussing motherly?

How is motherly used in real life?

Motherly is usually used in a positive way to describe a woman or something she does as being like a good mother. It can be applied to mothers or people who are not mothers.



Try using motherly!

Which of the following actions could be described as motherly?

A. giving you good advice
B. comforting you
C. cheering you on
D. all of the above

How to use motherly in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for motherly

/ (ˈmʌðəlɪ) /

of or resembling a mother, esp in warmth, or protectiveness

Derived forms of motherly

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