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[mot-oh] /ˈmɒt oʊ/
noun, plural mottoes, mottos.
a maxim adopted as an expression of the guiding principle of a person, organization, city, etc.
a sentence, phrase, or word expressing the spirit or purpose of a person, organization, city, etc., and often inscribed on a badge, banner, etc.
Origin of motto
1580-90; < Italian < Late Latin muttum sound, utterance. See mot Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for motto
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I saw then that he had adopted as his motto: Evil, be thou my good!

    Ivory Apes and Peacocks James Huneker
  • "I see you," he said at last, and repeated his motto which had something to do with monkeys.

    Bones Edgar Wallace
  • "But one thing is needful," at the same meal, had long been his motto; and he was never excessive in the use of even that.

  • His motto is, 'Go after it when you see a thing you want in this world.'

    Blow The Man Down Holman Day
  • His mark was a hand holding a compass, with the motto "Labore et constantia."

    The Printed Book Henri Bouchot
British Dictionary definitions for motto


noun (pl) -toes, -tos
a short saying expressing the guiding maxim or ideal of a family, organization, etc, esp when part of a coat of arms
a short explanatory phrase inscribed on or attached to something
a verse or maxim contained in a paper cracker
a quotation prefacing a book or chapter of a book
a recurring musical phrase
Word Origin
C16: via Italian from Latin muttum utterance
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for motto

1580s, from Italian motto "a saying, legend attached to a heraldic design," from Late Latin muttum "grunt, word," from Latin muttire "to mutter, mumble, murmur" (see mutter).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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