The English and Welsh surname Motley is of nickname origin identifying for someone who wore parti-colored clothes, from the Middle English term motteley meaning “motley.” Motley refers to the traditional costume of the court jester, or the harlequin character. The latter wears a patchwork of red, green and blue diamonds that is still a fashion motif. The word originated in England between the 14th and 17th centuries and referred to a woolen fabric of mixed colors. A notable bearer of the name Motley was the accomplished 10th Century British engineer and naturalist James Motely.
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