from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To mark with spots or blotches of different shades or colors.
  • n. A spot or blotch of color.
  • n. A variegated pattern, as on marble.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To mark with spots of different color, or shades of color, as if stained; to spot; to maculate.
  • n. a distinguishing blotch of color
  • n. mottled coloration or pattern

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A mottled appearance.
  • transitive v. To mark with spots of different color, or shades of color, as if stained; to spot; to maculate.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To mark with spots or blotches of different colors or shades of color; blotch; variegate; cloud.
  • n. The pattern or arrangement of spots and cloudings forming a mottled surface, especially in marble or in the natural veining of wood.
  • n. One of the spots or blotches which together constitute a mottling.
  • n. plural See diseased butter.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. colour with streaks or blotches of different shades
  • v. mark with spots or blotches of different color or shades of color as if stained
  • n. an irregular arrangement of patches of color


Probably back-formation from motley.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
1670-80 Probably back formation from motley (Wiktionary)


  • The characteristic markings on mahogany are "mottle," which is also found in sycamore, and is conspicuous on the backs of fiddles and violins, and is not in itself valuable; it runs the transverse way of the fibres and is probably the effect of the wind upon the tree in its early stages of growth.

    Seasoning of Wood

  • "mottle" behavior in the image generated by CMOS active pixel sensor devices.


  • Or invent an anxious axolotl whose gross debilitating mottle ...

    With apologies to everyone who's read this doggerel before

  • The old mottle was fat cat fundraising, a small number of large contributions from rich people and special interests.

    CNN Transcript Jun 5, 2008

  • Lowland Greater Mindanao is home to endangered mammals also found in other parts of the Philippines, including the golden-capped fruit bat (Acerodon jubatus) and the mottle-winged flying-fox (Pteropus leucopterus) (found on Luzon and Dinagat).

    Mindanao-Eastern Visayas rain forests

  • Deep crimson stains mottle the pages of humanity's history.

    Truth is Speaking....Is Power Listening?

  • The skin on his face looks oniony, translucent, and large splotches of gray mottle the greenish hue.

    The Mother Garden

  • She stood there weeding with a tiny trowel, her figure slightly warped and distorted by the mottle of the glass.

    The Beautiful Miscellaneous

  • The hover's smooth skin had taken on the discoloration of the fireground, an ugly mottle of gray and brown and black.

    The Year's Best Science Fiction 23rd Annual Collection

  • The river, visible through wisps of steam, moved powerfully, its might channeled within the cliff-sided chasm, slate-gray in the early light, the sun not yet able to mottle its turbulent surface with splotches of pale green and white.

    Genellan- Planetfall


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