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]

Latin mottos[edit]

Time flies[edit]

  • Hora fugit, ne tardes. (The hour flees, don't be late.)[8]
  • Ruit hora. (The hour is flowing away.)[8]
  • Tempus breve est. (Time is short.)[8]
  • Tempus fugit [velut umbra]. (Time flees [like a shadow].)[8][9]
  • Tempus volat, hora fugit. (Time flies, the hour flees.)[8]

Make use of time[edit]

  • Altera pars otio, pars ista labori. (Devote this hour to work, another to leisure.)[8]
  • Festina lente. (Make haste, but slowly.)[8]
  • [Fugit hora] – carpe diem. ([The hour flees] – seize the day.)[8]
  • Utere, non numera. (Use the hours, don't count them.)[8]
  • Utere non reditura. (Use the hour, it will not come again.)[8]

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.)[8]
  • Lente hora, celeriter anni. (An hour passes slowly, but the years go by quickly.)[8]
  • Meam vide umbram, tuam videbis vitam. (Look at my shadow and you will see your life.)[8]
  • Memor esto brevis ævi. (Remember how short is life.)[8]
  • Mox nox. (Night, shortly.)
  • [Nobis] pereunt et imputantur. ([The hours] are consumed and will be charged [to our] account)[10]
  • Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat. (All hours wound; the last one kills.)[8]
  • [Pulvis et] umbra sumus. (We are [dust and] shadow.)[11]
  • Serius est quam cogitas. (It's later than you think.)[8]
  • Sic labitur ætas. (Thus passes a lifetime.)[8]
  • Sic vita fluit, dum stare videtur. (Life flows away as it seems to stay the same.)[8]
  • Ultima latet ut observentur omnes. (Our last hour is hidden from us, so that we watch them all.)[8]
  • Umbra sicut hominis vita. (A person's life is like a shadow.)[8]
  • Una ex his erit tibi ultima. (One of these [hours] will be your last.)[8]
  • Ver non semper viret. (Springtime does not last.)[8]
  • Vita fugit, sicut umbra (Life passes like the shadow.)
  • Vita similis umbræ. (Life resembles a shadow.)[8]


  • Tempus edax rerum. (Time devours things.)[8]
  • Tempus vincit omnia. (Time conquers everything.)[8]
  • Vidi nihil permanere sub sole. (I have seen that nothing under the sun endures.)[8][12]


  • Dum tempus habemus operemur bonum. (While we have time, let us do good.)[8]
  • Omnes æquales sola virtute discrepantes. (All hours are the same – they are distinguished only by good deeds.)[8]


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.)[8]
  • Dona præsentis cape lætus horæ [ac linque severe]. (Take the gifts of this hour.)[8][13]
  • Fruere hora. (Enjoy the hour.)[8]
  • Post tenebras spero lucem. (I hope for light to follow darkness.)[8]
  • Semper amicis hora. (Always time for friends.)
  • Sit fausta quæ labitur. (May the hour be favorable.)
  • Sol omnibus lucet. (The sun shines for everyone.)[8]
  • Tempus omnia dabit. (Time will give everything.)[8]
  • Una dabit quod negat altera. (One hour will give what another has refused.)[8]
  • Vita in motu. (Life is in motion.)[8]
  • Vivere memento. (Remember to live.)[8]


  • Horas non numero nisi æstivas (I count only the summer hours)[14]
  • Horas non numero nisi serenas (I count only the sunny hours)
  • Nunc est bibendum (Now is the time to drink)[15]
  • Si sol deficit, respicit me nemo. (If the sun's gone, nobody looks 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 1973, p. 124
  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. ^ 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 1965, pp. 127–129
  9. ^ "Tempus Fugit Velut Umbra". Archived from the original on October 15, 2013. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  10. ^ Martial, Epigrams, book V, ode xx, line 13
  11. ^ Horace, Odes, Book IV, ode vii, line 16
  12. ^ Ecclesiastes (Kohelet) Chapter 2, verse 11
  13. ^ Horace, Odes, Book III, ode iix, line 27
  14. ^ Probably unique to the William Willett memorial in Petts Wood, England, which shows British Summer Time
  15. ^ Horace, Odes, Book I, ode xxxvii, line 1


Further reading[edit]

  • Boursier, C (1936). 800 Devises de cadrans solaires (in French). Paris.
  • 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.