Dum spiro spero

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"Dum spiro spero" in a stained glass window at Beverly Unitarian Church in Chicago.

Dum spiro spero, which translates to "While I breathe, I hope",[1] is a Latin phrase of indeterminate origin. It is the motto of various places and organisations, including the U.S. state of South Carolina.


The sense of dum spiro spero can be found in the work of Greek poet Theocritus (3rd Century BC), who wrote: "While there's life there's hope, and only the dead have none."[2] That sentiment seems to have become common by the time of Roman statesman Cicero (106 – 43 BC), who wrote Atticus: "As in the case of a sick man one says, 'While there is life there is hope' [dum anima est, spes esse], so, as long as Pompey was in Italy, I did not cease to hope."[3]

The phrase had begun appearing in its modern form by at least the 1780s, as it is present on a representation of the seal of South Carolina printed in March 1785.[4] At some point, it also became the motto of the town of St Andrews,[5] Scotland, and is visible on heraldry around the town from the mid-19th century onwards.[6][7]


As a motto[edit]

As an inscription[edit]

As a title[edit]

Family and individual use[edit]

Dum spiro spero is used as a motto by armigerous families including the Corbet baronets of Moreton Corbet (both creations), the Hoare baronets of Annabella, Co. Cork, the Cotter baronets of Rockforest, Co. Cork, and the Viscounts Dillon.[15] The Sharp and Sharpe clans of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.[citation needed] Royal military.[citation needed] The Williamson Clan from Co Donegal, Ireland; and the Scottish Clan MacLennan.[citation needed] Individuals who used the motto include Charles I,[16] King of England; Sir James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak,[17] and the merchant seaman and privateer, later Royal Governor of the Bahama Islands, Woodes Rogers.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "dum spiro, spero". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved September 21, 2014.
  2. ^ Idyll 4, line 42; translation by A. S. F. Gowin Theocritus ([1950] 1952) vol. 1, p. 37.
  3. ^ Epistulae ad Atticum, Book 9, Letter 10, English (Evelyn Shirley Shuckburgh translation), Latin
  4. ^ "South Carolina State House | South Carolina State Symbols". www.scstatehouse.gov. Retrieved 2021-11-28.
  5. ^ Porteous, Alexander (1906). The Town Council Seals of Scotland, Historical, Legendary and Heraldic. Edinburgh: Johnston. pp. 270–271.
  6. ^ Stuff, Good. "Town Hall And Library, South Street, St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife". britishlistedbuildings.co.uk. Retrieved 2021-11-28.
  7. ^ "Tour Scotland Photography St Andrews". Blogspot. Archived from the original on 2021-11-28.
  8. ^ "Cothill House (@CothillHouse) | Twitter". twitter.com. Retrieved 2019-01-28.
  9. ^ 601skss
  10. ^ Nigel Barley (20 June 2013). White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke. Little, Brown Book Group. pp. 101–. ISBN 978-0-349-13985-2.
  11. ^ Lukas Straumann (21 October 2014). Money Logging: On the Trail of the Asian Timber Mafia. Schwabe AG. pp. 63–. ISBN 978-3-905252-69-9.
  12. ^ SCIWAY "South Carolina State Seal and South Carolina State Mottos". South Carolina Information Highway. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  13. ^ "Survival tips for life on the Barbary Coast". 14 December 2015.
  14. ^ "Dum Spiro Spero by Dir en Grey". Metacritic.
  15. ^ The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, Bernard Burke, Harrison & Sons, 1884, pp. 228, 286, 494
  16. ^ Flood, Alison (2018-07-05). "Charles I's 'message for the future' discovered in poetry book". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  17. ^ The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, Bernard Burke, Harrison & Sons, 1884, p. 129
  18. ^ The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down

External links[edit]