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Family Crest Motto

Do you need information on a family crest motto? Family crests don't have mottos but coats of arms do, so for purposes of this article the terms will be used interchangeably. There is lots to learn about these mottos, as well as about the crests and coats of arms they are found on. For example, one of the most popular and widely used family crest mottos is "Dum spiro spero" which means "While I breathe, I hope."

Family Crest Motto

Family Crest Motto

"Dum spiro spero" shows up as a motto on family crests around the world. It is thought to have originated in St. Andrews, a town in Fife, Scotland. The motto links St. Andrew, the town where his bones were taken, and the University of St. Andrews. It is also the motto of South Carolina, the Kingdom of Sarawak, the Principality of Hutt River, and Burstow Park House. It is written in Latin as are most of the mottos on coats of arms. However, some mottos are written in other languages.

Here is a partial list of families that use this motto:

  • Bezdekovsky,
  • Betteridge,
  • Bisschoff,
  • Bushell,
  • Bushnell,
  • Bussell,
  • Casement,
  • Clifton,
  • Dillon,
  • Durr,
  • Doran,
  • Dullaghan,
  • Gahan,
  • Gaughan,
  • Harigon,
  • Harman,
  • Hensley,
  • Högquist,
  • Hunter,
  • Jelenkovic,
  • Lindsay,
  • Liversidge,
  • MacLennan,
  • Metford,
  • Morgan,
  • Moses,
  • Mason,
  • McGahon,
  • Johann von Meyer,
  • Olphert,
  • Pearson,
  • Roberts,
  • Salmon,
  • Sharp,
  • Sparks,
  • Spearman,
  • Stanton,
  • Swainson,
  • Williamson

Crests vs. Coats of Arms

When looking at a family crest motto, you may wonder what the difference is between a family crest and a coat of arms. Most people do not differentiate between the two and use the terms interchangeably. A coat of arms refers to the crest, helmet, mantling (coat or cloak), shield, and supporters (people, animals, plants, or objects) while the crest is the small image at the top of a helmet. So a coat of arms has things that show ancestry or distinctions. When a coat of arms has a name on it that means it was given to an individual person.

Here are some famous mottos from coats of arms.

  • Ad finem fidelis - Faithful to the end
  • Amor et honor - Love and honour
  • Bis vivit qui bene vivit - He lives twice who lives well
  • Candor dat viribus alas - Truth gives wings to strength
  • Carpe diem - Seize the present opportunity
  • Che sara sara - What will be will be
  • Chirsto duce vincamus - With Christ I will conquer
  • Corage sans peur - Courage without fear
  • Dieu et Mon Droit" - God and My Right - (used by Queen Elizabeth II)
  • Facta non verba - Deeds not words - (used by Ronald Reagan)
  • Felis demulcta mitis - The stroked cat is meek
  • Fructo cognoscitur arbor - A tree is recognized by its fruit
  • Generousitas et victoria - Generous in victory
  • In scientia veritas in arte honestas - In science truth, in art honour
  • Ne cede malis - Yield not to adversity
  • Nil claraius astris - Nothing brighter than the stars
  • Per mare per terras - By sea and land
  • Sapiens dominabitur astris - A wise man can rule the stars
  • Semper fidelis - Always faithful
  • Semper idem - Always the same - (used by Queen Elizabeth I)
  • Spectemur agendo - Let us be judged by our actions
  • Te ipsum nosce - Know thyself
  • Ullam-aime - Ever ready
  • Velis quod possis - Aim at what you can accomplish
  • Vincit veritas - Truth conquers

Other Symbols on Coats of Arms

Here are some of the colors and what they represent on coats of arms:

  • Gold - generosity
  • Silver, White - sincerity or peace
  • Red - warrior or military strength
  • Blue - loyalty and truth
  • Green - hope and joy
  • Black - constancy
  • Purple - sovereignty or justice
  • Orange - ambition
  • Maroon - patient

Here is a sampling of animals used and what they represent:

  • Bear - strength, cunning
  • Camel - perseverance
  • Cat - liberty and courage
  • Deer - peace
  • Dog - loyalty
  • Dragon - protection
  • Eagle - nobility, bravery
  • Griffin - vigilance, bravery
  • Lion - strength, ferocity
  • Peacock - beauty, power
  • Snake – wisdom

Knowing and understanding all of these things is useful when interpreting mottos or symbols on a family crest or a coat of arms.