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What Is the State Motto of Washington?

By Rebecca Mecomber
Updated: May 17, 2024

The state motto of Washington is "Alki," a Native American Chinook word that means "bye and bye," "I will see you again," "future hope," or "eventually." The motto Alki comes from a group of early settlers from New York who named their new settlement "New York" in honor of the east coast's great city. This new settlement did not experience such booming growth, however, and was renamed "New York Alki" or "Alki Point, New York" in hopes that the territory would eventually prosper. Alki Point later developed into the what is now the cosmopolitan city of Seattle. The state motto of Washington is the only motto of all 50 states to remain unofficial.

The word alki was depicted on the territory seal of Washington before the territory obtained statehood in 1889. Portrayed on one side of the seal is an immigrant wagon and the ubiquitous early settler's log cabin in a forest of fir trees; the other side displays an anchor and sailing vessel in water and the Native American "goddess of hope" pointing to the word alki. The territorial seal was replaced in 1889 with the state seal that depicted the new state's namesake.

Washington's other state emblems are often thought to be simple. The state seal depicts an ink drawing of President George Washington, his likeness taken from a silver dollar and postage stamp. As for the state flag, it is dark green in color with the state seal at the center. The state motto of Washington may be the shortest motto of all the states, consisting of one simple word: alki.

A state usually adopts a motto to emphasize an important moment regarding its history, or to express the beliefs, ideas or thoughts of the citizens or the state as a whole. State legislators make the motto official to protect the phrase and its meaning from unauthorized official use, usually as part of a state seal or other state symbols, and to set a standardized word or patriotic phrase common to all citizens of the state. In some cases, a territory or state may have casually adopted a state motto for many years before deeming the motto official in legislative acts. The state motto of Washington is unique in that the motto "Alki" has been in use since 1851, but the Washington State Legislature has not officially adopted it as a state symbol.

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