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A motto (derived from the Latin muttum, 'mutter', by way of Italian motto, 'word', 'sentence'; plural: mottoes (always listed first) or also mottos) is a phrase meant to formally summarize the general motivation or intention of a social group or organization. A motto may be in any language, but Latin is the most used in the Western world. The local language is usual in the mottoes of governments. In informal ways, it can be a rule or slogan someone follows, or lives their life by.
In heraldry, a motto is often depicted below the shield, except in the case of Scots heraldry where it is mandated to appear above the crest. Spanish coats of arms may display a motto in the bordure of the shield.
In English heraldry mottoes are not granted with armorial bearings, and may be adopted and changed at will. In Scottish heraldry mottoes 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.
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