Esse quam videri

Esse quam videri

[es-se kwahm wi-de-ree; Eng. es-ee kwam vi-dair-ahy]
Esse quam videri is a Latin phrase meaning "To be, rather than to seem". It has been used as motto by a number of different groups.


Esse quam videri is found in Cicero's essay "On Friendship" ("la:Laelius de Amicitia", chapter 98). "Virtute enim ipsa non tam multi praediti esse quam videri volunt" (Few are those who wish to be endowed with virtue rather than to seem so).

Just a few years after Cicero, Sallust used the phrase in his Bellum Catilinae (54.6), writing that Cato the Younger "esse quam videri bonus malebat" (He preferred to be good rather than to seem so).

Previous to both Romans, Aeschylus used a similar phrase in Seven Against Thebes at line 592, at which the scout (angelos) says of the seer/priest Amphiaraos: "ou gar dokein aristos, all' enai thelei" (his resolve is not to seem the best but in fact to be the best). Plato quoted this line in Republic (361b).

In "The Prince", Niccolò Machiavelli twists this phrase to Videri Quam Esse (To seem rather than to be) with respect to how a ruler ought to act.

Usage as a motto

North Carolina

Esse quam videri is the state motto of North Carolina, adopted in 1893.

It is unusual that until the act of 1893 the sovereign state of North Carolina had no motto since its declaration of independence. It was one of the few states which did not have a motto and the only one of the original thirteen without one.

The state motto has also been adopted by the Virginia class submarine USS North Carolina.


Esse quam videri is (or was) the motto of a number of schools around the world including:


"Esse Quam Videri" is also the motto of the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority , founded in 1917 at New York University Law School.

"Esse Quam Videri" is also the motto of the Lambda Kappa Sigma sorority , founded in 1913 at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy.


Phi Lambda Sigma, Lebanon Valley College, est. 1867


Esse quam videri is the motto used on the coats of arms of the following families: Acraman, Bowen, Breamore, Brownlee, Brownlow, Cambria, Clavering, Crawley, Croft, Dickinson, Harmer, Hannum, Hood, Isserman, Ivey, Longley, Manning, Renshaw, Shreeve, Sherriff, Sibley, Sturges, Thurston and Woodgate, Turner..

It was also the motto used within the Brockman coat of arms circa 1700.

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