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What Is the State Motto of North Carolina?

By B. Chisholm
Updated: May 17, 2024

The state motto of North Carolina is a Latin phrase "Esse quam videri" which, translated into English, means "To be, rather than to seem." It was made the official state motto in 1893. North Carolina was one of the last of the original states to adopt a state motto.

The Latin saying is taken from Marcus Tullius Cicero's On Friendship, otherwise called Laelius. Cicero was an ancient Roman orator and statesman who wrote much on the Greek schools of thought and philosophy. The state motto of North Carolina comes from a statement in Chapter 26, De Amicita, from On Friendship - "Virtute enim ipsa non tam multi praediti esse quam videri volunt." Roughly translated into English, this means "Few are those who wish to be endowed with virtue rather than to seem so."

The choice of an official state motto was a serious responsibility. The motto was chosen to reflect the characteristics of the state's citizenry. When the North Carolina General Assembly officially adopted the state motto in 1893, it was the last of the original thirteen states to finally adopt one .

It is not only the state motto of North Carolina that encourages patriotism and pride within the state. Other state emblems like the flag, song, animal and bird are also important symbols of North Carolina. The state animal, the gray squirrel, made official in 1969, is a familiar furry figure in North Carolina. Their official state song "The Old North State" written by William Gaston, inspires pride in the people of North Carolina.

North Carolina's flag consists of a blue union, or vertical bar on the left side and two horizontal bars on the right, red above and white below. In the blue section are the letters "N" and "C" on each side of a star and the dates "May 20th, 1775" above and "April 12th, 1776" below. Both of these dates were important dates in North Carolina's history. 20 May 1775 was the date of the Mecklenberg Declaration of Independence and 12 April 1776 was the date of the Halifax Resolves.

The adoption of "Esse quam videri"" as the state motto of North Carolina was accompanied by its inclusion in two other important state symbols. It was included at the foot of the coat of arms and engraved in the great seal of North Carolina. At the same time the date "May 20th, 1775" was included on the coat of arms.

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