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noun, plural mot·toes, mot·tos.
  1. a maxim adopted as an expression of the guiding principle of a person, organization, city, etc.
  2. 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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for motto

Contemporary Examples of motto

Historical Examples of motto

British Dictionary definitions for motto


noun plural -toes or -tos
  1. a short saying expressing the guiding maxim or ideal of a family, organization, etc, esp when part of a coat of arms
  2. a short explanatory phrase inscribed on or attached to something
  3. a verse or maxim contained in a paper cracker
  4. a quotation prefacing a book or chapter of a book
  5. 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