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Blazons & Genealogy Notes

Az. on a bend betw. three leopards’ faces or, as many martlets gu.

Origin, Meaning, Family History and Motte Coat of Arms and Family Crest

Motte Origin:

England, Scotland

Origins of Motte:

According to the early recordings of the spelling of the name, this interesting and unique name was listed in many forms containing Moat, Moatt, Mott, Motte, and Mote, this is an English and sometimes Scottish, surname. However spelled, it acquires from the pre 7th century Old English word "mote," which means a trench, a wide channel formed to act as a protective barrier around a stronghold. The surname was either geographical from one of the two places called Moat in the district of Dumfriess, Scotland, or judging by the many documentation, a more similar explanation was that it was geographical for a person who was a citizen by such a castle, of which there were many spread all over the British Islands. Not surprisingly the surname is one of the first listed, and early examples showing the surname advancement contain as Richard Mote in the Hundred Rolls of Oxfordshire in 1273, William de la Mote, in the Fines Court Rolls of Essex in 1305 and Elena Mott in the CensusTax returns of Yorkshire in 1379. Amongst the earliest immigrants in the new American colonies was Adam Mott, a taylor, and his wife Sara, left from London on the ship "Defence" joined for New England in July 1635, while James Moat listed as being baxter in Dumfriess in 1714.


More common variations are: Mottey, Moutte, Myotte, Mottie, Mottee, Motteu, Miotte, Mottae, Mohtte, Moette


The surname Motte first appeared in Essex, where the family held a family seat from old times, having been given lands by Duke William of Normandy, their true King, for their exceptional support at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 AD.

The very first recording spelling of the family was shown to be that of Basilia Motte, dated about 1273, in the "Hundred Rolls of Cambridgeshire." It was during the time of King Edward 1 of England, dated 1272 - 1307. The origin of surnames during this period became a necessity with the introduction of personal taxation. It came to be known as Poll Tax in England. .


Many of the people with surname Motte had moved to Ireland during the 17th century.

United States of America:

Individuals with the surname Motte landed in the United States in three different centuries respectively in the 18th, 19th, and 20th. Some of the people with the name Motte who arrived in the United States in the 18th century included Johannes Motte, who landed in Pennsylvania in the year 1771.

People with the surname Motte who landed in the United States in the 19th century included George Motte settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the year 1807. P Motte, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1851. Clement Motte, who landed in Mississippi in the year 1854.

The following century saw more Motte surnames arrive. Some of the people with the surname Motte who arrived in the United States in the 20th century included Edward Motte, who came to Alabama in the year 1917.


Some of the individuals with the surname Motte who came to Canada in the 17th century included Pierre Motte at the age of 45, landed in Quebec in the year 1658.

Here is the population distribution of the last name Motte: France 7,690; Belgium 1,076; United States 1,046; Mexico 916; India 892; Brazil 413; Peru 370; Ghana 320; Germany 269; Morocco 268

Notable People:

Isaac Motte (December 1738–May 1795) was an American soldier and politician from Charleston, South Carolina. He gave services as a Colonel in the Revolutionary War and served South Carolina in the Continental Congress from 1780 to 1782.

Jason Louis Motte was born in June 1982. He is an American professional baseball relief pitcher for the Colorado Rockies of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played in MLB for the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs.

Nathaniel Warren Seth Motte "(Nat Motte)" was born in January 1984. He is an American recording artist and film artist from Boulder, Colorado.

Motte Coat of Arms Meaning

The two main devices (symbols) in the Motte blazon are the leopard’s face and martlet. The three main tinctures (colors) are azure, gules and or .

The bright, strong blue color in Heraldry is known in English as azure, and similarly in other European languages – azul in Spanish, azurro in Italian and azur in French. The word has its roots in the Arabic word lazura, also the source of the name of the precious stone lapis lazuli 1. Despite this, those heralds who liked to associate colours with jewels chose instead to describe blue as Sapphire. According to Wade, the use of this colour symbolises “Loyalty and Truth” 2.

The bold red colour on a heraldic shield is known as gules. It has a long history within heraldry, it is known that one of those who besieged the scottish castle of Carlaverock in 1300 was the French knight Euremions de la Brette who had as his arms a simple red shield.3. The word gules is thought to come from the Arabic gule, or “red rose” 4. Later writers associated it with the precious stone ruby and the metal iron 5, perhaps because of the red glow of iron in the heat of the blacksmith’s forge.

The bright yellow colour frequently found in coats of arms is known to heralds as Or, or sometimes simply as Gold.6. Along with, argent, or silver it forms the two “metals” of heraldry – one of the guidelines of heraldic design is that silver objects should not be placed upon gold fields and vice versa 7. The yellow colour is often associated with the Sun, and the zodiacal sign of Leo.8.

The leopard’s face (sometimes, incorrectly referred to as a leopard’s head occurs very frequently in heraldry 9. Early heraldic artists tended to treat lions and leopards as the same animal, but during the development of British Heraldry the heads of the two creatures have adopted separate, and more realistic forms. Wade would have us associate leopards with warriors, especially those who overcome ”hazardous things by force and courage” 10

The martlett is by far the most common bird to appear in British Heraldry, perhaps only equalled by the eagle, however it is not a species ever to be found in an ornithologists handbook! The word itself is though to have come from the French word merlette, the female blackbird and itself a similar type of charge used in French Heraldry. 11. Over time the image has become quite stylised, without visible legs or distinctive feathers. Wade suggests that this representation arises from “the appearance of the bird of paradise to ancient travellers” 12. Other bird species may be named in coats of arms (cornish chough is a frequent example) but in actual execution their appearance is often indistinguishable from the martlet.

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  • 1 A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Azure
  • 2 The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P36
  • 3 The Siege of Carlaverock, N. Harris, Nichols & Son, London, 1828, P180
  • 4 Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 313
  • 5 Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P53
  • 6 Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 27
  • 7 A Complete Guide to Heraldry, A.C. Fox-Davies, Bonanza (re-print of 1909 Edition), New York, 1978, P85
  • 8 Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P53
  • 9 A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Lion
  • 10 The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P65
  • 11 A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Martlet
  • 12 The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P79