List of sundial mottos

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A sundial on a gravestone in Kilbirnie Auld Kirk, Kilbirnie, Ayrshire, Scotland. The motto at top reads,
"Life is but a passing shadow, the shadow of a bird on the wing."

Many sundials bear a motto[a] to reflect the sentiments of its maker or owner.

English mottos[edit]

  • Be as true to each other as this dial is to the sun.
  • Begone about Thy business.
  • Come along and grow old with me; the best is yet to be.[1]
  • Hours fly, Flowers die. New days, New ways, Pass by. Love stays.[2]
  • Hours fly, Flowers bloom and die. Old days, Old ways pass. Love stays.
  • I only tell of sunny hours.
  • I count only sunny hours.
  • Let others tell of storms and showers, I tell of sunny morning hours.
  • Let others tell of storms and showers, I'll only count your sunny hours. Has date of 1767
  • Life is but a shadow: the shadow of a bird on the wing.
  • Self-dependent power can time defy, as rocks resist the billows and the sky.[3][4]
  • Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away.[4][5]
  • Today is Yesterday's Tomorrow[6]
  • When I am gone, mark not the passing of the hours, but just that love lives on.
  • The Concern of the Rich and the Poor[7]
  • Time Takes All But Memories[8]
  • Some tell of storms and showers, I tell of sunny hours.[9]
  • Order in the court![10][citation needed]
  • Like true firemen, I am always ready.

Latin mottos[edit]

Time flies[edit]

  • Hora fugit, ne tardes. (The hour flees, do not be late.)[11]
  • Ruit hora. (The hour is flowing away.)[11]
  • Tempus breve est. (Time is short.)[11]
  • Tempus fugit [velut umbra]. (Time flees [like a shadow].)[11][12]
  • Tempus volat, hora fugit. (Time flies, the hour flees.)[11]

Make use of time[edit]

  • Altera pars otio, pars ista labori. (Devote this [hour] to work, another to leisure.)[11]
  • Festina lente. (Make haste, but slowly.)[11]
  • [Fugit hora] – carpe diem. ([The hour flees] – seize the day.)[11]
  • Utere, non numera. (Use [the hours], do not count [them].)[11]
  • Utere non reditura. (Use that [hour] which will not return.)[11]

Human mortality[edit]

Martial's Pereunt et Imputantur on St Buryan's parish church, Cornwall
Horace's Umbra Sumus on Brick Lane Mosque, London
  • Ex iis unam cave. (Beware of one [hour] out of these.)[11]
  • Lente hora, celeriter anni. (An hour [passes] slowly, but the years [pass] quickly.)[11]
  • Meam vide umbram, tuam videbis vitam. (Look at my shadow and you will see your life.)[11]
  • Memor esto brevis ævi. (Be mindful of brief life.)[11]
  • Mox nox. (Soon [it is] night.)
  • Tuam nescis (You don't know your [time].)
  • [Nobis] pereunt et imputantur. ([The hours] are consumed and will be charged [to our account].)[13]
  • Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat. (All [hours] wound; the last kills.)[11]
  • [Pulvis et] umbra sumus. (We are [dust and] shadow.)[14]
  • Serius est quam cogitas. (It is later than you think.)[11]
  • Sic labitur ætas. (Thus passes a lifetime.)[11]
  • Sic vita fluit, dum stare videtur. (Life flows away as it seems to stay the same.)[11]
  • Ultima latet ut observentur omnes. (The last [hour] is hidden so that we watch them all.)[11]
  • Umbra sicut hominis vita. (A person's life is like a shadow.)[11]
  • Una ex his erit tibi ultima. (One of these [hours] will be your last.)[11]
  • Ver non semper viret. (Spring is not always in bloom.)[11]
  • Vita fugit, sicut umbra (Life passes like the shadow.)
  • Vita similis umbræ. (Life resembles a shadow.)[11]


  • Tempus edax rerum. (Time devours things.)[11]
  • Tempus vincit omnia. (Time conquers everything.)[11]
  • Vidi nihil permanere sub sole. (I have seen that nothing under the sun endures.)[11][15]


  • Dum tempus habemus operemur bonum. (While we have time, let us do good.)[11]
  • Omnes æquales sola virtute discrepantes. (All [hours] are the same; they are distinguished only by virtue.)[11]


Horace's Dona præsentis cape lætus horæ ac linque severe on the Villa Vizcaya, Miami, Florida
Vita in motu on one of the sundials (right) at Houghton Hall, Norfolk, England
  • Amicis qualibet hora. (Any hour for my friends.)[11]
  • Dona præsentis cape lætus horæ [ac linque severe]. (Take the gifts of this hour joyfully [and leave them sternly].)[11][16]
  • Fruere hora. (Enjoy the hour.)[11]
  • Post tenebras spero lucem. (I hope for light to follow darkness.)[11]
  • Semper amicis hora. (Always time for friends.)
  • Sit fausta quæ labitur. (May that which passes be favorable.)
  • Sol omnibus lucet. (The sun shines for all.)[11]
  • Tempus omnia dabit. (Time will give all.)[11]
  • Una dabit quod negat altera. (One [hour] will give what another has refused.)[11]
  • Vita in motu. (Life [is] in motion.)[11]
  • Vivere memento. (Remember to live.)[11]


  • Horas non numero nisi æstivas. (I do not count the hours unless they are in summer.)[17]
  • Horas non numero nisi serenas. (I do not count the hours unless they are sunny.)
  • Nunc est bibendum. (Now is the time to drink.)[18]
  • Si sol deficit, respicit me nemo. (If the sun is gone, nobody will look at me.)
  • Sine sole sileo. (Without the sun I fall silent.)

German mottos[edit]

  • Mach' es wie die Sonnenuhr; Zähl' die heitren Stunden nur! (Do like a sundial; count only the sunny hours!)



  1. ^ The plural of motto may be either mottoes or mottos.


  1. ^ From Robert Browning's poem Rabbi ben Ezra
  2. ^ From Henry van Dyke's Inscription for Katrina's Sun-Dial
  3. ^ From Oliver Goldsmith's poem The Deserted Village
  4. ^ a b Waugh, Albert E. (1973). Sundials: their theory and construction. New York: Dover Publications. p. 124. ISBN 0486229475.
  5. ^ From Isaac Watts' hymn Our God, Our Help in Ages Past
  6. ^ File:Morehead_Planetarium_Sundial.JPG
  7. ^ From a sundial at Wallingtons House, Kintbury, Berkshire
  8. ^ Shown at the end of S2E7 of the TV show Dead Like Me
  9. ^ Inscribed on a sundial at Georges River College, Peakhurst and in Hyde Park, Sydney.
  10. ^ From a sundial outside of the United Kingdom Supreme Court in Middlesex Guildhall, Parliament Square, London, England
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak Rohr, René R. J. (1996). Sundials : history, theory, and practice. New York: Dover Publications. pp. 127–129. ISBN 0486291391.
  12. ^ "Tempus Fugit Velut Umbra". Archived from the original on October 15, 2013. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  13. ^ Martial, Epigrams, book V, ode xx, line 13
  14. ^ Horace, Odes, Book IV, ode vii, line 16
  15. ^ Ecclesiastes (Kohelet) Chapter 2, verse 11
  16. ^ Horace, Odes, Book III, ode iix, line 27
  17. ^ Probably unique to the William Willett memorial in Petts Wood, England, which shows British Summer Time
  18. ^ Horace, Odes, Book I, ode xxxvii, line 1


Further reading[edit]

  • Boursier, C (1936). 800 Devises de cadrans solaires (in French). Paris.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Cross, L (1915). the Book of Old Sundials. illustrated by W Hogg. London: Foulis Press.
  • Gatty, Mrs Alfred; Eden, HKF; Lloyd, E (1900). The Book of Sun-Dials (4th ed.). London: George Bell & Sons.
  • Hyatt, AH (1903). A Book of Sundial Mottoes. New York: Scott-Thaw.
  • Landon, P (1904). Helio-tropes, or new Posies for Sundials. London: Methuen.
  • Leadbetter, C (1773). Mechanick Dialling. London: Caslon.