Wednesday, August 13, 2014


While all have heard the expression Motley Fool, how many have considered the word motley on it own. The expression motley fool offers little guidance into motley itself. Another word which is more instructive and shares origins with motley is mottled or spotted, a term used by doctors for rashes and veterinarians for animals.

These words are thought to derive from Dutch mot or Norwegian mutt and the biblically famous mote, all referring to small particles. From this, motley became multicolored, many disparate colors. This is the original meaning.

So motley fool, refers to the traditional fool/jester's multicolored costume. By analogy, motley may now be used for any disparate collection. In fashion, motley refers to multicolored dress, like patchwork.
... and three young women in motley and bells.
Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb

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