When I was a baby, my father would often say that we come a French aristocratic dynasty de Motl – for some time, I tended to buy it ;-). Much later, I knew about the Yiddish (extreme Jewish dialect of German) novel Motl der Operator and people would conjecture that I must have some Jewish roots which I never believed.
Finally, I accidentally asked my editor, Ms Věra Amelová, who was just working on the index for the 2nd edition of the Czech Elegant Universe and who found an explanation of the origin in a book. I don't expect regular TRF readers to be interested in similar linguistic stuff but those who search for things using search engines may be interested. And I just wanted to write it down somewhere.
Doc. (Assoc. Prof.) Josef Beneš spent his life by his work on the origin of surnames. What does it say?
Motl or Mottl: a German [close to Pilsen] vernacular (dialect) form of the Czech surname Mátl [an actor is called this way]. The name Mátl itself came from Matas which was derived from the first name Matouš or Matěj [Matthew] which arose from Hebrew Matityahu, meaning a gift of God.
[LM: Amusingly enough, in recent discussions with a nice and versatile physics professor in Santa Barbara, I was led to find out – among many other things – that the name Baghdad may paradoxically have Slavic roots and it means a gift of God, too. "Bag" is related to "Bog", a Slavic word for God, while "Dad" or more precisely "dát" is "to give" in Czech and similarly in other languages.]
Motlík [little Motl], Motloch [a derivative of Motl resembling brloh, a den] – a confused, deranged person in the Lachei, North Moravian/Silesian dialect of Czech [very far from Pilsen]. [LM: the Czech verb "motat" is probably related and it means wind, roll, reel, spool, but more relevantly totter, stagger, walk unsteadily, confuse, mix up, and – most importantly – muddle.]
You can pick your theory. My editor believes that the former, German, gift-of-God theory is much more likely to be the right one, both due to the more precise form of the name, the geographic proximity, as well as the tendency to obscure vowels in the Southern part of the Czech-German border region.
I don't need to explain that Luboš is a Slavic name linked to love, viewed as derived from more complicated names Luboslav and Lubomír but currently independent of them, often translated as "milý" i.e. dear, beloved, kind, nice, pleasant, likeable, agreeable, appealing, amiable, congenial, loved one, boyfriend, beau, gentle-mannered – you knew that, they're 14 most often adjectives that people immediately think about when my name is pronounced anywhere. ;-)
The link in the previous paragraph contains the list of 8 famous holders of the name. Do you know at least one of them? ;-) It also says that 22,700 holders of this first name in Czechia make it the 44th most frequent masculine one. To compare, there are about 800 male Motls in Czechia written in this exact way.
What about your name?