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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A motto (from Italian) is a phrase or a short list of words meant formally to describe the general motivation or intention of an entity, social group, or organization. Many countries, cities, universities, and other institutions have mottos, as do families with coats of arms.

A motto may be in any language. Latin and to a lesser degree French are disproportionately frequent, because each was the principal international language for a considerable period. The local language is usual in the mottos of governments.

Fraternities and sororities typically have their (usually secret) mottos in the Greek language. That of the County of Somerset is in Anglo-Saxon.

A canting motto is one that contains word play. For example, the motto of the Earl of Onslow is Festina lente, punningly interpreting on-slow (literally "make haste slowly").

In heraldry, a motto is often depicted in an achievement of arms, typically on a scroll below the shield, or else above the crest as in Scots heraldry.

Ships and submarines in the Royal Navy each have a crest and motto, as do units of the Royal Air Force.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Motto" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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