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Esse quam videri

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"Esse quam videri" plaque on monument to Revolutionary War officer Joseph Winston, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, Greensboro, North Carolina

Esse quam videri is a Latin phrase meaning "To be, rather than to seem." It has been used as a motto by a number of different groups.



Esse quam videri is found in Cicero's essay On Friendship (Laelius de Amicitia, chapter 98). Virtute enim ipsa non tam multi praediti esse quam videri volunt ("Few are those who wish to be endowed with virtue rather than to seem so").

Just a few years after Cicero, Sallust used the phrase in his Bellum Catilinae (54.6), writing that Cato the Younger esse quam videri bonus malebat ("He preferred to be good rather than to seem so").

Previous to both Romans, Aeschylus used a similar phrase in Seven Against Thebes at line 592, at which the scout (angelos) says of the seer/priest Amphiaraus: οὐ γὰρ δοκεῖν ἄριστος, ἀλλ᾽ εἶναι θέλει (ou gàr dokeîn áristos, all' eînai thélei: "he doesn't want to seem, but to be the bravest"). Plato quoted this line in Republic (361b).

Usage as a motto


North Carolina

Great Seal of North Carolina with the state motto Esse quam videri.

Esse quam videri is the state motto of North Carolina, adopted in 1893.[1][2]

Schools and colleges


Esse quam videri is (or was) the motto of a number of schools and colleges around the world, including:



Esse quam videri is the motto of the following sororities:



Esse quam videri is the motto of the following fraternities:



The Wallenberg family. [29]

Sporting organisations

  • Kingswood Rugby Football Club, Bristol, UK, use a variant Esse Non Videri as their club motto.[30]
  • White Wolves MC,[31] Oradea, RO, use a variant of the motto, Esse Quam Videri Malim as their club motto.
  • Outcast Cyclists,[32] U.K. and worldwide use Esse Quam Videri as their club motto.



Other organizations


Esse quam videri is also the motto of


Television personality Stephen Colbert inverted the statement on his show The Colbert Report to Videri Quam Esse,[41] meaning "to seem to be rather than to be." It is also engraved across the faux hearth, above the video fireplace, in his studio, under his portrait.


  1. ^ "North Carolina State Motto Esse Quam Videri To Be, Rather Than To Seem". Netstate. Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  2. ^ "Wat is the NC State Motto? -Our State Magazine". 2014-07-02. Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  3. ^ "Catawba County Government - Catawba County North Carolina". Retrieved 2023-09-25.
  4. ^ "home". Connellspt-p.schools.nsw.edu.au. Retrieved 2010-07-12.
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  7. ^ "Dubbo College".
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  9. ^ "Home". Hemel Hempstead School. Archived from the original on 2008-07-04. Retrieved 2010-07-12.
  10. ^ [1] Archived November 29, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Lane College". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-03-01.
  12. ^ "The motto of the University is Esse Quam Videri ...." "Bulletin, National University of Health Sciences" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 December 2010. Retrieved 11 March 2011.
  13. ^ "Seton Hall High School". Retrieved 2011-03-05.
  14. ^ "essequamvideri.co.uk". essequamvideri.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2012-03-04. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  15. ^ "Pages - Welcome!". Stm.nbed.nb.ca. Retrieved 2012-04-20.
  16. ^ "Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy: A Challenge Foundation Academy". Tjca.org. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  17. ^ "truroschool.com". truroschool.com. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  18. ^ "Villa Devoto School". vdevoto.esc.edu.ar. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  19. ^ "Woodward Career Technical High School Official Web Site". Cincinnati Public Schools. Retrieved 2012-03-25.
  20. ^ "wyoarea.org". wyoarea.org. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  21. ^ "Old Yeovilians' Association Home Page". Oldyeovilians.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-07-12. [dead link]
  22. ^ "dphie.org". dphie.org. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  23. ^ "tkc.edu". tkc.edu. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  24. ^ "phideltaalpha.com". phideltaalpha.com. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  25. ^ "Alpha Chi Lambda". San Antonio: Trinity University. Archived from the original on 2012-07-17. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
  26. ^ "lks.org". lks.org. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  27. ^ "Phi Beta Fraternity".
  28. ^ "Gamma Eta Gamma".
  29. ^ "Family". Wallenberg.com. Retrieved 24 December 2018. The family's website claims the meaning "to act, not to seem to be" which is not a valid translation of "Esse, non videri"; Latin phrases that do have this meaning include "agere, non videri" and "facere, non videri".
  30. ^ Burt, Martyn. "kingswoodrfc.co.uk". kingswoodrfc.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  31. ^ "White Wolves MC Romania - Esse Quam Videri Malim". www.whitewolvesmcromania.ro. Archived from the original on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  32. ^ "Outcast Cyclists - Esse Quam Videri". Outcast Cyclists - Esse Quam Videri. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  33. ^ "Swire". www.swire.com. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  34. ^ "Isle of Harris Gin | Harris Distillers".
  35. ^ "nhmss.org". nhmss.org. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  36. ^ "Carolina Wilderness EMS Externship - Official Home Page". Blueridgehealth.org. Archived from the original on 2012-04-02. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  37. ^ "Men's Chorus Philosophy: Esse Quam Videri". Brigham Young University. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
  38. ^ "Gathering of Eagles". www.gatheringofeagles.us. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  39. ^ "Pan Hellenic Society". www.panhellenicsociety.com. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  40. ^ "Eric Marsh Foundation". www.ericmarshfoundation.org. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  41. ^ "Stephen Colbert's new Latin motto". Iinterbridge. Talk Show News. 2010-01-17. Retrieved 2014-12-31.

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