mot·​to | \ ˈmä-(ˌ)tō How to pronounce motto (audio) \
plural mottoes also mottos

Definition of motto

1 : a sentence, phrase, or word inscribed on something as appropriate to or indicative of its character or use "The Crossroads of America" is the motto of the state of Indiana.
2 : a short expression of a guiding principle "Hope for the best and prepare for the worst" is my motto.

Examples of motto in a Sentence

“Hope for the best and prepare for the worst” is my motto. The Boy Scout motto is “Be prepared.”

Recent Examples on the Web

The squirrel became the subject of memes, jokes and even proposals to change the state’s motto. Ashley Remkus |,, "Alabama loves Huntsville’s ‘attack squirrel’," 19 June 2019 That’s the motto of a Mounds View High School team named EcoSlurp that is headed to Washington, D.C., this week to pitch their biodegradable bubble tea straws to judges at the Junior Achievement National Leadership Summit. Deanna Weniger, Twin Cities, "Mounds View students pitch their company, EcoSlurp, for top Junior Achievement prize," 18 June 2019 As a Quaker school, Sidwell Friends derives its motto from the Quaker notion of inward light—or the idea that God is in every person, and should lead people to do good for others. Adam Harris, The Atlantic, "Parents Gone Wild: High Drama Inside D.C.’s Most Elite Private School," 5 June 2019 Schools sometimes have a motto from season to season. Mark Stewart, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Stewart: Waukesha South's Paul Darling, Slinger's Al Schieve leave the game on their own terms," 16 Apr. 2018 Advertising Hussle’s brother, Samiel Asghedom, also breathed life into motto. Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Seattle Times, "Memorial spotlights the man behind Nipsey Hussle rap persona," 12 Apr. 2019 But as with just about all efforts to equalize the workplace, the old motto holds true—better late than never. Michelle Garcia, Glamour, "The First Lady Has a Huge Job. It’s Time She Had a Salary to Match," 3 Apr. 2019 No stocking is fully stuffed without face products (my new seasonal motto), and naturally, Kylie Cosmetics' holiday collection includes a few of those too. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "Kylie Jenner Just Revealed Her Entire 2018 Holiday Makeup Collection on Instagram," 14 Nov. 2018 The graduates were proud to embrace the school’s Latin motto, Non scholae sed vitae discimus. Hayley Harding,, "For Classical Magnet Graduates, Learning Was For Life Not School," 15 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'motto.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of motto

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for motto

Italian, from Late Latin muttum grunt, from Latin muttire to mutter

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Statistics for motto

Last Updated

22 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for motto

The first known use of motto was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for motto



English Language Learners Definition of motto

: a short sentence or phrase that expresses a rule guiding the behavior of a particular person or group


mot·​to | \ ˈmä-tō How to pronounce motto (audio) \
plural mottoes

Kids Definition of motto

1 : a phrase or word inscribed on something (as a coin or public building) to suggest its use or nature
2 : a short expression of a guiding rule of conduct The Boy Scout motto is “Be prepared.”

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More from Merriam-Webster on motto

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with motto

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for motto

Spanish Central: Translation of motto

Nglish: Translation of motto for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of motto for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about motto

Comments on motto

What made you want to look up motto? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to take the place or position of

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