mot·​to | \ˈmä-(ˌ)tō \
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

No American embodied that motto better than our 41st president. William Mcgurn, WSJ, "George Bush’s Wonderful Life," 2 Dec. 2018 Despite the Mary’s Place motto, more than 4,200 of Washington state’s approximately 40,000 homeless students lived in Seattle during the 2016-’17 school year, according to a report by Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Gaby Del Valle, Vox, "Jeff Bezos’s philanthropic projects aren’t as generous as they seem," 29 Nov. 2018 That's been the Democrats guiding motto against Trump supporters. Fox News, "Women who know Kavanaugh respond to allegations against him," 17 Sep. 2018 Want, Need, Wear, Read has become our family motto for the coming holiday season. Carmen Staicer, Redbook, "Want, Need, Wear, Read," 8 Dec. 2011 The governor's signature May 23 means public school authorities must now display the national motto in each building used by a school under its jurisdiction. Wilborn P. Nobles Iii,, "Bill requiring display of 'In God We Trust' at schools becomes law," 30 May 2018 Standridge said the legislation does not mandate any government agency display the motto. Ashley Remkus,, "Have you seen him? 14-year-old reported missing in Limestone County," 7 Feb. 2018 That's the motto of the Deerfield Beach Little League's Junior Division All-Star team after capturing the District 10 (north Broward County) championship with a 10-9 victory over Fort Lauderdale. Emmett Hall,, "Deerfield Beach Little League Junior Division All-Stars ready for trip to Florida's capital," 12 July 2018 That line at the end is the official motto of the RAF. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Queen Elizabeth Paid Tribute to Her Father in a Speech to Mark the 100th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force," 10 July 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

7 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for motto

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

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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 \
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

Spanish Central: Translation of motto

Nglish: Translation of motto for Spanish Speakers

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

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to enclose within walls

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