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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
- The three S. Thomas' Schools in Sri Lanka: those in Mount Lavinia, Gurutalawa and Bandarawela, 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 motto of Springs Boys' High School, Springs, South Africa. "Esto Perpetua" has been the school's motto since it first opened in 1940.
- The motto of Springs Girls' High School, Springs, South Africa. "Esto Perpetua" has been the school's motto since it first opened in 1959.
- The Winyah Indigo Society, Georgetown, S.C., incorporated 1754.
- "Esto Perpetua" is also the motto of the four St. Thomas' Schools in Sri Lanka, including St. Thomas' College in Mount Lavinia, Sri Lanka.
- "Esto Perpetua" is also the motto of the Sigma Phi Society. Founded in 1827, Sigma Phi was the first national fraternity in the United States.