English edit

Etymology edit

From Middle English moderles, from Old English mōdorlēas, from Proto-Germanic *mōdērlausaz, equivalent to mother +‎ -less. Cognate with Saterland Frisian muurloos (motherless), Dutch moederloos (motherless), German mutterlos (motherless), Danish moderløs (motherless), Swedish moderlös (motherless), Icelandic móðurlaus (motherless).

Pronunciation edit

  • (file)

Adjective edit

motherless (not comparable)

  1. Without a (living) mother.
    • 1907, Margaret McMillan, Labour and Childhood, page 14:
      Of 110 boys, all very far below the average in physique, forty-four had a mother at home, but sixty-six were all practically motherless. In some cases the mother was dead, but in the rest the mother was absent all day at work.
  2. Without mother (mucilaginous substance in fermenting liquid).
    • 1607, [attributed to Thomas Tomkis], Lingva: Or The Combat of the Tongue, and the Five Senses for Superiority. A Pleasant Comœdie., London: Printed by G[eorge] Eld, for Simon Waterson, →OCLC, act IV, scene iii:
      Your onely way to make a good pomander, is this. Take an ownce of the pureſt garden mould, clenſed and ſteeped ſeauen daies in change of motherleſſe roſe water, then take the beſt Labdanum, Benioine, both Storaxes, amber greece, and Ciuet, and muſke, incorporate them together, and work them into what form you pleaſe; this, if your breath bee not to valiant, will make you ſmell as ſweete as my Ladies dogge.
    • 1997, Good Housekeeping, volume 225, page 132:
      Once the bottle is opened, the starter may develop again if the vinegar is in your cupboard for awhile.[sic] If its appearance bothers you, strain the vinegar through several layers of cheesecloth into a sterilized bottle. Motherless or not, vinegar has [...]
    • 2014, Bill Collins, Making & Using Vinegar: Recipes That Celebrate Vinegar, page 4:
      A number of things along the way, such as temperature fluctuations, bacteria, and dust in the air, can derail and ruin a motherless vinegar. But if you use a mother, [...]
  3. (figurative) Without a history or predecessor.
    • 2009, Charles S. Peirce, Writings of Charles S. Peirce, →ISBN:
      Although there had been some previous attempts in the same direction, Boole's idea by no means grew from what other men had conceived, but, as truly as any mental product may, sprang from the brain of genius, motherless.
    • 2014, Pauline Shypula, A Motherless Tongue: The Experience of Second Generation Americans:
    • 2015, Peter Meehan, Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes, →ISBN, page 192:
      So in an inclusive act of recognition, here's our goopy take on this motherless dish—a mash-up of all your food-court chickens, be they sweet 'n' sour, sesame[.]

Hypernyms edit

Coordinate terms edit

Derived terms edit

Translations edit

Adverb edit

motherless (comparative more motherless, superlative most motherless)

  1. (South Africa, Australia, slang) very, completely (especially in reference to drunkenness)
    • 2009, Bryce Courtenay, The Story Of Danny Dunn:
      At the wake, held at her old pub, Brenda watched as her sisters, brothers-in-law and several nieces and nephews got motherless drunk, then summoned a taxi to take them all home in two separate trips.

See also edit