Definition of dapple in US English:



[with object]usually be dappled
  • Mark with spots or rounded patches.

    ‘the floor was dappled with pale moonlight’
    • ‘In general, gardenias prefer either morning sun and afternoon shade or dappled sunlight all day.’
    • ‘Fortunately, the loss of my sunglasses was not vital: the dusk Australian sunlight was more than bearable at this time of the evening, dappling our shaded picnic table with a pleasant umber hue.’
    • ‘Sunlight coming through the trees dappled her skin with golden spots as the wind rustled the leaves.’
    • ‘For an hour before, as a young princess could not sleep, as she paced in and out of the squares of moonlight dappling her floor, she chanced to glance out of the window.’
    • ‘His short beard was dappled with pale grey and his hair too, was the colour of granite in snow.’
    • ‘Spring sunshine was dappling the highest slopes as I climbed up through the old pine-woods above Glen Feshie.’
    • ‘Properly chastened, he drifted to the rear of the empty classroom and watched dust motes twirl in the sunlight dappling the room.’
    • ‘He was shirtless, exceedingly pale, a quivering tendril of a man trying to dodge a patch of sun that persisted in dappling his face.’
    • ‘The woodland floor is dappled with sunlight, which makes it difficult to tell what is a mushroom and what is just a dead leaf.’
    • ‘The cuffs on her arms had been ripped off, and although he could only see the underside of her arms, there was a hint of leopard spots dappling the sides.’
    • ‘As the rough and rocky road went up through the trees, out of the valley, it was dappled by sudden sunlight.’
    • ‘Her hair had come loose from its braid and red marks dappled her chest.’
    • ‘Fortunately, I thought to look back in time to see the morning sunlight dappling its northern face.’
    • ‘Through the windows, the college is dappled by the warm early-November sunlight.’
    • ‘The silvery moonlight dappled Luka's skin like sunlight, bleaching it to a state of porcelain perfection.’
    • ‘I darted down the path within the shadows cast by the trees across my path, dappling me with moonlight with every other thud of my foot.’
    • ‘As the shark passed by, shafts of sunlight dappled its long, greyish-brown flanks.’
    • ‘Around them dappled sunlight, birdsong and the whirr of busy wings.’
    • ‘You can see how the light in this photo is spilling in and dappling the floor and the wainscotting.’
    • ‘The sunlight scattered through the swath of leaves, dappling the grassy floor with intricate patterns of color and shadow.’
    dot, spot, mark, fleck, streak, speck, speckle, bespeckle, mottle, stipple, marble
    speckled, blotched, blotchy, spotted, spotty, dotted, streaked, streaky, mottled, marbled, flecked, freckled, stippled, piebald, skewbald, pied, brindled, brindle, tabby, marled
    View synonyms


  • 1A patch or spot of color or light.

    • ‘When she opened her eyes, all she could see was shimmering dapples of the moonlight reflecting off the calm waters.’
    • ‘Small dapples of light occasionally broke through and barely illuminated any of the uneven littered ground.’
    • ‘It came to me that the phenomenal world was like a dance of convections, a crazy dapple of hues, forever escaping one's notice, yet teasing the eye with its flow.’
    • ‘Smiling, I prance about the room, tiptoeing in and out of the sun dapples on the oak floor, and he giggles gleefully.’
    • ‘It was a rather depressing wall, painted white with dapples of gray scuffs.’
    1. 1.1 An animal whose coat is marked with patches or spots.
      • ‘In fact, even Robert looked as if he would ask a question, but then he only smiled before moving to offer the reins of his dapple to her carriage's driver.’
      • ‘The lady's riding companion smiled good-naturedly and dismounted from his frisky dapple.’
      • ‘Barnyards dropped by in the elderly and well preserved Land-Rover which is the modern farmers' equivalent of the solid dapple horse, and made us an astoundingly generous offer.’
      • ‘I was somewhat adept at art, so with my pencils and notebook in my backpack, I drew a picture of Arthur with Excalibur (I had to settle on this name for I could not remember its true title), and his new horse (a large dapple named Joaquin).’
      • ‘By the time we had got to the croft at the top of the hill the ponies - including the dapple who is my special favourite - had been turned out and were taking the whole thing calmly at the other end of their field.’


Late 16th century (earlier as an adjective): perhaps related to Old Norse depill ‘spot’.