verb (used with object), mot·tled, mot·tling.

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 formsmot·tle·ment, nounmot·tler, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for mottling

Contemporary Examples of mottling

Historical Examples of mottling

  • No polishing of sandstone will reveal the mottling of marble.

    A Dish Of Orts

    George MacDonald

  • The game was in plenty at the spring, and mottling the grassy plain.

  • The mottling of the basal and median areas on this side is reddish-brown.

    The Butterfly Book

    William Jacob Holland

  • Every vein and crack and mottling of that face of rock remained forever stamped upon his memory.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

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

British Dictionary definitions for mottling



(tr) 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 for mottle

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

Word Origin and History for mottling



1670s, probably a back-formation from motley.



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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper