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 That desire to continue, the will to win, that’s the Raider motto. Los Angeles Times, "Breaking down the key players behind the Raiders’ encouraging 2020 season," 24 Nov. 2020 In the early days of the pandemic, Cooper saw a sign in her Houston neighborhood — the English World War II motto, Keep Calm and Carry On. Alexis Soloski, New York Times, "Escape Rooms in an At-Home Era? Here’s the Key," 5 Nov. 2020 That pithy motto was coined by Leo Durocher, a baseball manager noted for exulting at injuring his opponents and for cheating his players at cards. The Economist, "Bartleby Why fair play pays," 12 Dec. 2020 The motto also ran in newspaper ads for nearly 20 years, but not everyone was familiar with the man behind the saying. Nataly Keomoungkhoun, Dallas News, "How did Dallas help O.L. Nelms make his millions in the 1960s and ‘70s? Curious Texas investigates," 8 Dec. 2020 Deandre Ayton shouted out the motto that will forever link him and Kelly Oubre Jr. Duane Rankin, The Arizona Republic, "Phoenix Suns: Kelly Oubre Jr. 'kind of shocked' 'Valley Boyz' brother Deandre Ayton hasn't reached out since trade," 4 Dec. 2020 McGehee coach Val Whitfield-Dunn said her team, which only graduates three seniors, lived up to its motto — Fight to the Finish. Joseph Halm,, "Country Day tops McGehee for Division V state volleyball championship," 14 Nov. 2020 The last one was mandatory: Every team needed to come up with a motto and make signs. Roxane Gay, New York Times, "I’m Tired of Babysitting Man-Babies at Work," 13 Nov. 2020 This is the motto one comes up with when one is sporting the league’s worst defense, no Marshawn Lynch-like runner and a quarterbacking magician named Russell Wilson. Mark Craig, Star Tribune, "Saints are latest best team in the NFC but probably not the last," 14 Nov. 2020

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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Time Traveler for motto

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

13 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Motto.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for motto


How to pronounce motto (audio)

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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