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The words are traced back to the Venetian theologian and mathematician Paolo Sarpi (1552–1623), also known as Fra Paolo. The day before his death he had dictated three replies to questions on affairs of state, and his last words were "Esto perpetua" reportedly in reference to his beloved Venice and translated as "Mayest thou endure forever!" When the designer of the state seal Emma Edwards Green described the motto on the seal, she translated it as "It is perpetuated" or "It is forever".
The motto was also adopted by:
- HMS Tireless, Trafalgar Class Submarine Royal Navy
- The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, a farm organization constituted in Washington D.C. on December 4, 1867
- S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia, Sri Lanka, translated as "Be Thou Forever"
- The Pirates Rugby Football Club in Dunedin, New Zealand, which was formed in 1882
- The Sigma Phi Society
- The Club
- Chatham Hall School, Chatham, Virginia, translated as "She will live forever"
- The Winyah Indigo Society, Georgetown, S.C., incorporated 1754.