Motley refers to the traditional costume of the court jester, or the harlequin character in commedia dell'arte. The latter wears a patchwork of red, green and blue diamonds that is still a fashion motif.

The word motley is described in the Oxford English Dictionary as a cognate with medley, although the unrelated mottled has also contributed to the meaning. The word is most commonly used as an adjective or noun, but is also seen as a verb and adverb. When used as a noun, it can mean "a varied mixture." As an adjective, it is generally disparaging — a motley collection is an uninspiring pile of stuff, as in the cliche motley crew.

The word originated in England between the 14th and 17th centuries and referred to a woolen fabric of mixed colors. It was the characteristic dress of the professional fool. During the reign of Elizabeth I, motley served the important purpose of keeping the fool outside the social hierarchy and therefore not subject to class distinction. Since the fool was outside the dress laws (sumptuary law), the fool was able to speak more freely.

Likewise, motley did not have to be checkered and has been recently thought to be one pattern with different colored threads running through it.

Motley is the only wear. —Shakespeare, As You Like It, ii. 7

Other articles related to "motley":

Langhorne A. Motley
... Langhorne Anthony Motley (born June 5, 1938 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) is a former United States Ambassador to Brazil (1981–83) and Assistant Secretary ... Ambassador Motley has a wife and two children ...
Motley, Minnesota - Demographics - 2000 Census
... There were 258 households out of which 31.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.7% were married couples living together, 19.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.9% were non-families. 31.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older ...
Archibald Motley - Works and Observation of Jazz Culture - Nightlife
... During this period, Motley developed a reusable and recognizable language in his artwork, which included contrasting light and dark colors, skewed perspectives ... In an interview with the Smithsonian Institution, Motley explained this disapproval of racism he tries to dispel with Nightlife and other paintings “And that's why ... and do the things that you want to do” (Motley 1978) In this excerpt, Motley calls for the removal of racism from social norms ...
Motley (disambiguation) - Other Uses
... Motley's Crew, classic comic strip that was in publication from 1976 to 2000 Mötley Crüe, American glam metal band Mötley Records, record label Motley Theatre Design Group aka Motley, a ... The Motley Fool, commercial website ...
List Of Australian Rules Football Families - M - Motley
... Geof Motley Peter Motley Geof is the father of Peter. ...

Famous quotes containing the word motley:

    Drinking tents were full, glasses began to clink in carriages, hampers to be unpacked, tempting provisions to be set forth, knives and forks to rattle, champagne corks to fly, eyes to brighten that were not dull before, and pickpockets to count their gains during the last heat. The attention so recently strained on one object of interest, was now divided among a hundred; and, look where you would, there was a motley assemblage of feasting, talking, begging, gambling and mummery.
    Charles Dickens (1812–1870)

    O that I were a fool!
    I am ambitious for a motley coat.
    William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

    ... life is moral responsibility. Life is several other things, we do not deny. It is beauty, it is joy, it is tragedy, it is comedy, it is psychical and physical pleasure, it is the interplay of a thousand rude or delicate motions and emotions, it is the grimmest and the merriest motley of phantasmagoria that could appeal to the gravest or the maddest brush ever put to palette; but it is steadily and sturdily and always moral responsibility.
    Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (1844–1911)