Definition of mottle in US English:



[with object]usually be mottled
  • Mark with spots or smears of color.

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


  • 1An irregular arrangement of spots or patches of color.

    ‘the ship was a mottle of khaki and black’
    • ‘Cold Mountain was a mottle of colour, rising behind the house.’
    1. 1.1also mottling A spot or patch forming part of a mottled arrangement.
      ‘the mottles on a trout’
      ‘white marble with mottlings of black and gray’
      • ‘People like the original glass, even if it does have a few mottles.’
      • ‘Remarkably, however, the rooms on the second floor below show little sign of decay, bar some mottles on the ceiling.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.