Definition of mote in US English:



  • A tiny piece of a substance.

    ‘the tiniest mote of dust’
    • ‘Flatten yourself against the window, and let the world tilt forward until you're gazing down through the fine transparent barrier, scattered with reassuring dust motes and the glimmer of reflection.’
    • ‘Many scenes are heavily marred by dust motes, particularly those which take place at night or in shadow.’
    • ‘This little speck of a girl - no more than a mote of dust in the cosmic sense of things - was questioning her operation and her wisdom, her very essence of being.’
    • ‘A beam of light had broken through the canopy and caught the motes of dust and tiny midges floating around in the golden light.’
    • ‘Tiny water droplets are borne on the air like dust motes, sparkling in the glare from the banks of fluorescent lights in the canopy above the petrol pumps.’
    • ‘But a Leonid meteor is tiny, a supersonic mote of dust.’
    • ‘‘Sorry,’ I said, trying to find my wallet in my coat pockets, retrieving dust motes and chocolate instead.’
    • ‘Later I was in the living room watching dust motes circulating through a shaft of sunlight when the phone rang.’
    • ‘There's a constant stream of planktonic motes going past.’
    • ‘I could see dust motes in a shaft of light that cut across my cubicle.’
    • ‘Sometimes the light outside penetrates the shadows in shafts, and dust motes float in the silence, flying like fairies… or miracles.’
    • ‘Over the past century, physicists have pushed back the frontier of the small - from dust motes to atoms to protons and neutrons to quarks.’
    speck, particle, grain, spot, fleck, atom, scintilla, mite
    View synonyms


  • a mote in someone's eye

    • A fault in a person that is less serious than one in someone else who is being critical.

      • ‘I despise how easily these extremists strive to pluck the mote out of someone else's eye while leaving the well-rooted tree that's in their own.’
      • ‘Look at the mote in your own eye first, congressman.’
      • ‘If this fight is only to be a yelling match about the motes in each other's eyes I am not interested in participating.’
      • ‘So East had a mote in his eye and was fortunate that his partner did not notice it.’
      • ‘And to the British and European hypocrites who thought this was a good idea, I say remove the beam from your own eye before taking the mote from my eye.’
      • ‘If locals want to pluck the mote of financial mismanagement from the eye of their Government they need to start by removing the planks of laziness and indifference from their own.’
      • ‘Ever since Black Wednesday, in March 1996, the rest of Europe has regarded BSE as being a peculiarly British disease, but these last 12 months have seen a rude awakening to the mote in their own eye.’
      • ‘But if he noticed the beam in the eye of the other, he could not see the mote in his own.’
      • ‘I seem to recall something in the Bible about removing the mote from one's own eye before pointing to the splinter in someone else's.’


Old English mot, related to Dutch mot ‘dust, sawdust’.