A motto (derived from the Latinmuttum, 'mutter', by way of Italianmotto, 'word', 'sentence') is a maxim, a phrase meant to formally summarize the general motivation or intention of an individual, family, social group or organization. Mottos are usually not expressed verbally, unlike slogans, but are expressed in writing and usually stem from long traditions of social foundations, or also from significant events, such as a civil war or a revolution. A motto may be in any language, but Latin has been widely used, especially in the Western world.
In English heraldry mottos are not granted with armorial bearings, and may be adopted and changed at will. In Scottish heraldry, mottos can only be changed by re-matriculation, with the Lord Lyon King of Arms. Although very unusual and perhaps outside standard heraldic practice, there are some examples of the particular appearance of the motto scroll and letters thereon being blazoned.
In literature, a motto is a sentence, phrase, poem, or word prefixed to an essay, chapter, novel, or the like suggestive of its subject matter. It is a short, suggestive expression of a guiding principle for the written material that follows.