Definition of mottle in English:



  • Mark with spots or smears of colour:

    ‘green leaves that are heavily mottled with chocolate and maroon’
    ‘a bird with mottled brown plumage’
    • ‘The flesh is orange-yellow and mottled with red, with an almost peachlike texture.’
    • ‘Tobacco mosaic is a virus that mottles leaves, stunts plants, and reduces yields.’
    • ‘Her calves, soles, toes, palms, and fingertips were dark red and mottled.’
    • ‘The Upland Sandpiper is a black, brown, and white mottled bird with a long neck and tail and yellow legs.’
    • ‘The shells of live lobsters are mottled green, blue and red.’
    • ‘As he got close to the woman, he could see only her face and her hair, and they were mottled with mud.’
    • ‘Juveniles and females are mottled brown with a dark bill and yellowish legs.’
    • ‘If you absorb enough fluoride it can become dangerous - it does cause mottled teeth and there is an issue over bone damage.’
    • ‘She's a short-horn dairy calf, brown and mottled with huge, sweet eyes.’
    • ‘In summer their dappled shade doesn't overwhelm lawns and plants around them, and in winter, the bark is mottled.’
    • ‘The woman was wearing a short sleeved beige top and her bare arms were mottled red from the cold.’
    • ‘His main concerns with fluoridation include the potential risk of brain cancer, hip fractures and mottled teeth.’
    • ‘The bald skin is mottled with age spots, which have gone crusty.’
    • ‘The dining room has a mottled beige carpet and sliding glass doors to the patio area.’
    • ‘Sara whirled around, cheeks mottled red in embarrassment as soon as she saw the intruder.’
    • ‘The dirt on his face was evident, mottling it in patches.’
    • ‘Genuine wrought iron usually has a pitted and mottled appearance, even if it has been cleaned.’
    • ‘Using a sponge the body is mottled with green paint to give a pleasing finish’
    • ‘He was tall, with dark brown hair and green eyes mottled with flecks of brown.’
    • ‘There was a bruise on her cheekbone and her forearms were mottled with them.’
    • ‘True, the skin on his arms has been scarred and mottled by the sun, a side-effect of living in Hawaii.’
    blotchy, blotched, spotted, spotty
    speckled, streaked, streaky, marbled, flecked, freckled, dappled, stippled, piebald, skewbald, pied, brindled, brindle, tabby, marled
    patchy, variegated, multicoloured, particoloured
    splotchy, splodgy
    View synonyms


  • 1An irregular arrangement of spots or patches of colour:

    ‘the ship was not dull grey as distance had suggested, but a mottle of khaki and black and olive green’
    • ‘Cold Mountain was a mottle of colour, rising behind the house.’
    1. 1.1 A spot or patch forming part of a mottled arrangement:
      ‘a pale grey with lighter grey mottles’
      • ‘People like the original glass, even if it does have a few mottles.’
      • ‘Peanuts will grow in clay loam, but small clay particles stick to the textured surfaces of mature peanut pods, leaving mottles that mar the beauty of the shells.’
      • ‘Remarkably, however, the rooms on the second floor below show little sign of decay, bar some mottles on the ceiling.’
      • ‘Fluoride supporters believe the chemical helps cut tooth decay, but anti-fluoride groups claim it can cause a range of problems, from tooth mottling to cancer, and have threatened to mount a legal challenge on human rights grounds.’


Late 18th century: probably a back-formation from motley.