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Not officially granted with a coat of arms, mottos are phrases that incorporate the basic philosophy of the family or an ancient war cry.
They may or may not be present on an individual coat of arms, and are normally placed below the shield or at times above the crest. Mottos are fairly common today but are not required. A few examples of some mottos in various languages are:
  • "Dieu et mon droit"

  • or
  • "God and my right"

  • the French motto of the English kings. This was supposedly the battle cry of Edward III during the Battle of Crécy in 1346.
  • "Honestas politia optima"

  • is the Latin motto of John Rowlands of Nant who died in 1703 and in English, means.
  • "Honesty is the best policy"

  • "In veritate triumpho"

  • is another Latin version of
  • "I triumph in truth"

  • "Nunc aut numquam"

  • is Latin for
  • "Now or never"

  • "Think on"

  • a current English motto of the Maxwell coat of arms.
  • "Toraf cyn plygaf"

  • is Welsh and means
  • "I break before I bend"

A current motto of the MacPherson family.

The motto is of comparatively recent origin. It was not hereditary, and each man could adopt one or not as they wished. It is said that American families of colonial stock should not use a motto unless it can be shown that a recent ancestor of the emigrant used it. In Scotland and Ireland and in some English families the "war cry" was used as a motto by custom, in which case, of course, it accompanied the coat of arms. The motto is usually a phrase in French or Latin and should be placed under the shield where it is always carried on a scroll, also known as the riband. Today, the color of the scroll is left to the choice of the artist.

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