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[muhth -er-lee] /ˈmʌð ər li/
pertaining to, characteristic of, or befitting a mother; maternal:
motherly solicitude.
like a mother:
to take a motherly interest in an orphan.
in the manner of a mother.
Origin of motherly
before 1000; Middle English moderly, Old English mōdorlīc. See mother1, -ly
Related forms
motherliness, noun
unmotherly, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for motherly
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Historical Examples
  • Then she usually received an embrace and a motherly kiss with a searching look into what was usually a blooming face.

    Betty Lee, Senior Harriet Pyne Grove
  • The landlady looked at him in a motherly way and shook her head.

    The White Company Arthur Conan Doyle
  • She was speaking tenderly, affectionately, as if in motherly counsel to a son in danger of going wrong.

    The Torrent Vicente Blasco Ibaez
  • She removed his clothes too, bullying him in a motherly way.

    L'Assommoir Emile Zola
  • The sister was eight years older than her brother and acted a motherly part towards him.

    The Pearl Box A Pastor
  • She looked so sweet and motherly that I let her do so, and as we walked along we talked.

  • When I came to myself, I saw a kind, motherly face bending over me, and was aware of a hot taste in my mouth.

    Humphrey Bold Herbert Strang
British Dictionary definitions for motherly


of or resembling a mother, esp in warmth, or protectiveness
Derived Forms
motherliness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for motherly

Old English modorlic "pertaining to a mother;" see mother (n.1) + -ly (1). Meaning "befitting a mother" is from mid-13c. Related: Motherliness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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