noun, plural mot·toes, mot·tos.

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.

Nearby words

  1. motte,
  2. mottelson,
  3. mottle,
  4. mottled,
  5. mottled enamel,
  6. mottramite,
  7. motty,
  8. motu,
  9. motu proprio,
  10. motzer

Origin of motto

1580–90; < Italian < Late Latin muttum sound, utterance. See mot Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for motto

British Dictionary definitions for motto


noun plural -toes or -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 for motto

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

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