A motto (from the Italian word motto, meaning witticism, sentence) is a phrase meant to formally describe the general motivation or intention of a social group or organization. A motto may be in any language, but Latin is the most used. The local language is usual in the mottos of governments.


In heraldry, a motto is often depicted in an achievement of arms typically on a scroll below the shield or else above the crest as in Scots heraldry.

In English and Scottish heraldry mottoes are not granted with armorial bearings, and may be adopted and changed at will. Although very unusual and perhaps outside regular heraldic practice, there are some examples of the particular appearance of the motto scroll and letters thereon being blazoned.

A canting motto is one that contains word play. For example, the motto of the Earl of Onslow is Festina lente, punningly interpreting on-slow (literally "make haste slowly").

The motto of the County of Somerset is in Anglo-Saxon; that of South Cambridgeshire in the English Fens is in Dutch.

Ships and submarines in the Royal Navy each have a badge and motto, as do units of the Royal Air Force.

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