March 14, 2024 | Dancy Mason

Every State's Motto—Do You Know Yours?


State Mottos

State mottos are the official slogans American states take, and are generally displayed on their state seal. Do you know yours already? Are you sure?

State Mottos

Alabama

As you'll notice, a lot of state mottos are in Latin. But don't worry, we've got you: Alabama's motto is "Audemus jura nostra de defendere," which means "We dare maintain our rights."

Motto of Alabama. Marker near Huntsville. - 2003J. Williams, CC BY-SA 2.5, Wikimedia Commons

Alaska

In 1967, Alaska made their motto "North to the Future."

Anchorage - 1953Hipkins, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Arizona

Arizona has another Latin motto: "Ditat Deus," or "God enriches."

Ditat Deus: God Enriches - Arizona mottocobalt123, Flickr

Arkansas

Arkansas' slogan is "The people rule," or "Regnat Populus." 

Arkansas State Seal  - 2013Sjrapert, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

California

Here's a weird one. Since 1963, California's motto has been "Eureka." Why? It goes back all the way to the discovery of gold in California in the 1800s. 

Shalkespeaare Mine Forbestown Ca - 1860CSU Chico archives, Wikimedia Commons

Colorado

Going back to Latin, Colorado's motto is "Nil Sine Numine," or "Nothing without providence or deity."

Denver & Front Range - ColoradoJames St. John, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Connecticut

Connecticut's state motto, "He who transplanted still sustains," also comes from the Latin, "Qui Transtulit Sustinet."

Connecticut State Capitol, Hartfordjglazer75, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Delaware

Delaware's state motto is a classic: "Liberty and Independence." 

Image from page 609 of Internet Archive Book Images, Flickr

District of Columbia

We've got a bonus for you here, since DC isn't actually a state. Nonetheless, it does have a motto: "Justitia Omnibusor "Justice for All."

Us Capitol West Side - 2013Martin Falbisoner, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Florida

Florida didn't reinvent the wheel with its motto. It's the same as America's as a nation: "In God We Trust."

Orlando, Florida, USA - 2012Domenico Convertini, Flickr

Georgia

Georgia's state motto is "Wisdom, Justice and Moderation."

Georgia State Capitol, Atlanta - 2016DXR, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Hawaii

Hawaii's state motto isn't in Latin, it's in the native language ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi. It says: "Ua mau ke ea o ka ain
a i ka pono," or "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness."

Hawaii State Capitol - 2016Jimmy Emerson, DVM, Flickr

Idaho

Idaho's motto is a bit open to interpretation. Reading "Esto Perpetua" in Latin, it translates directly to "Let it be perpetual," but is probably better said as "It is Forever" or "Be Eternal."

Looking West toward central Idaho Springs - 2004Steven Martin, Flickr

Illinois

Illinois' motto gets right to the point: "State Sovereignty, National Union." 

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield - 2012Teemu008, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Indiana

Fittingly, Indiana takes "The Crossroads of America" as its motto. 

Statue of George Washington in front of Indiana StatehouseSteven Van Elk, Pexels

Iowa

Following a freedom theme, Iowa's motto is "Our liberties we prize, our rights we will maintain."

The Iowa State Capitol Complex in winter  - 2014Jason Mrachina, Flickr

Kansas

Kansas gets a little poetic with its motto, "Ad astra per aspera," or "To the stars through difficulties."

Kansas State Capitol - 2023Elli, Wikimedia Commons

Kentucky

This one will be familiar to most. Coming from 1768's "Liberty Song" by John Dickinson, Kentucky's state motto is "United we stand, divided we fall."

Portrait of John Dickinson - 1820NYPL,Wikimedia Commons

Louisiana

There seems to be a rule of threes in state mottos. Louisiana follows the trend with its motto: "Union, Justice, Confidence."

The State Capitol From Port Allen, La - 2016bluepoint951, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Maine

Maine keeps it short and simple with its motto: "Dirigo," which means "I Guide" or else "I Direct."

Maine State House in Augusta - 2018GPA Photo Archive, Flickr

Maryland

Maryland is another state that bucks the Latin trend. Its Italian motto, "Fatti maschii, parole femine" translates to "strong deeds, gentle words." It comes from an Italian proverb via the Roman Catholic founders of the European colony in the state.

Thurgood Marshall Statue And Maryland State HouseBestbudbrian, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Massachusetts

Massachusetts' state motto is "By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty." Or, if you prefer the Latin, "Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem."

Aerial View Of Massachusetts State HouseAbhiSuryawanshi, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Michigan

Michigan's state motto sure is confident. "Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice" translates to "If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you."

A view of the Michigan State Capitol from Michigan Avenue - 2006Smpage09, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Minnesota

Minnesota shakes it up a little with a French motto, "L'etoile du Nord," or "Star of the North."

MN State Capitol (2017)jpellgen (@1105_jp), Flickr

Mississippi

Mississippi's Latin motto "Virtue et Armis" means "By valor and arms."

Photograph Of The Mississippi State Senate, 1924Mississippi Department of Archives and History,Wikimedia Commons

Missouri

Missouri's Latin motto leaves some room for interpretation. "Salus populi suprema lex eso" could be "Let the good of the people be the supreme law," or else "The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law."

Jefferson City, Missouri and the Missouri RiverSarah Minor, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Wikimedia Commons

Montana

As the "Treasure State" because of its mineral deposits, Montana's motto is "Oro y Plata" or Spanish for "Gold and Silver."

Placer Gold And Magnetite Sand - Montana, USAJames St. John, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Nebraska

Nebraska is another straightforward state in terms of mottos: "Equality Before the Law."

Nebraska State Capitol. Lincoln, Nebraska - 2022jpellgen (@1105_jp), Flickr

Nevada

Nevada's motto? "All for Our Country."

Nevada State Capitol - 2009teofilo, Flickr

New Hampshire

Coming in hot with perhaps the most famous state motto, New Hampshire boasts "Live Free or Die," which comes from the revolutionary general John Stark. 

Statue of John Stark at the Bennington Battle Monument in Bennington, Vermont - 2009Hunter Kahn, Wikimedia Commons

New Jersey

New Jersey's motto is the sweet, simple "Liberty and Prosperity."

The New Jersey State House in Trenton - 2005mtstradling, Flickr

New Mexico

"Crescit Eundo" is New Mexico's motto, which is Latin for "It grows as it goes."

New Mexico State Capitol - 2010Mr.TinMD, Flickr

New York

\New York state takes "Excelsior" as its motto, meaning "Ever Upward" in Latin. 

The New York State Capitol is the capitol building- 2004Onasill - Bill Badzo, Flickr

North Carolina

North Carolina has "Esse quam videri" as its motto, which means "To be, rather than to seem." Words to live by!

The North Carolina State Capitol Building - 2017Warren LeMay, Wikimedia Commons

North Dakota

North Dakota isn't kidding around. Their motto is "Liberty and Union Now and Forever, One and Inseparable."

The Pioneer Family, North Dakota State Capitol, Bismarck, North Dakota - 2018Ken Lund, Flickr

Ohio

Historically, Ohio has one of the more controversial mottos: "With God, All Things Are Possible." A 12-year-old boy selected it after winning a contest in the 1950s, but some thought it violated the separation of church and state. Nonetheless, it remains to this day. 

West Seal, Capitol Square, Columbus, OhioBob Hall, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Oklahoma

Oklahoma may have "Labor Omnia Vincit" or "Work Conquers All" on its state seal, but it's not actually the official motto of the state. In 2012, the state even tried to make the new official motto "In God We Trust." Take your pick?

Oklahoma State Capitol Building - 2009James Johnson, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Oregon

Oregon's current motto is "She Flies With Her Own Wings."

Capitol Building, Salem, Oregon - 2013Sheila Sund, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvanians probably know that "Virtue, Liberty, and Independence" is their motto.

The Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania - 2022Farragutful, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Rhode Island

Rhode Island has the shortest motto of all the states, seeing that it's only one four-letter word: "Hope."

The state capital building of Rhode Island in Providence - 2007terraplanner, Flickr

South Carolina

South Carolina has not one but two state mottos. One is "Animis Opibusque Parati" or "Prepared in Mind and Resources," while the other is "Dum Spiro Spero," or "While I breathe I hope."

South Carolina State House. Columbia, South Carolina - 2020jpellgen (@1105_jp), Flickr

South Dakota

South Dakota's state motto is "Under God the People Rule."

South Dakota State Capitol - 2009J. Stephen Conn, Flickr

Tennessee

Some may not know this, but Tennessee has a huge agricultural component. It makes sense, then, that its state motto is "Agriculture and Commerce."

Tennessee State Capitol Building - 2012Andre Porter (imagN Images), CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Texas

No, Texas's motto isn't "Everything's bigger in Texas" or "Don't mess with Texas." Like Rhode Island, it's actually one word as well, albeit a longer one: "Friendship."

Texas State Capitol, Austin, Texas - 2018Randy von Liski, Flickr

Utah

Utah's state motto is another single word statement: "Industry."

Salt Lake City Capitol Building Sunlight - Utah Cityscape - 2012Clint Losee, Flickr

Vermont

Vermont's state motto is "Freedom and Unity."

Vermont State House In MontpelierJonathanking, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Virginia

Virginia takes an intimidating route with its motto, "Sic Semper Tyrannis," or "Thus always to tyrants."

The Virginia State House - 2008Tony Fischer, Flickr

Washington

Washington doesn't have an official motto, but takes the Chinook word "Al-ki" as its unofficial one, meaning "By and by."

Washington State Capitol (Olympia, Washington) - 2014cmh2315fl, Flickr

West Virginia

Not to be outdone, West Virginia has "Montani Semper Liberi" or "Mountaineers are always free" as its motto.

The West Virginia State Capitol BuildingDaniel G Rego, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Wisconsin

If you're from Wisconsin, you might know the one-word state motto is "Forward."

Wisconsin State Capitol Aerial - 2021Lectrician2, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Wyoming

Ironically, although it's last on an alphabetical list of the states, Wyoming has "Equal Rights" as its motto.

Wyoming State Capitol, Cheyenne, Wyoming - 2007Jimmy Emerson, DVM, Flickr

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