Can You Guess the U.S. State from Its Motto?
States have flowers, flags, and nicknames. How well do you know your state mottos?
Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.
Marie Bankhead Owen, of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, thought of Alabama’s state motto, “We Dare Defend our Rights,” while doing research for the state’s coat of arms. Owen found a poem by 18th-century author Sir William Jones called “What Constitutes a State?” which contains this segment: “Men who their duties know. But know their rights, and knowing, dare maintain.” The motto is prominently displayed on the Coat of Arms of Alabama, which was completed in 1923. The Latin phrase is “Audemus jura nostra defendere” and was translated by Professor W. B. Saffold of the University of Alabama. Another translation of the Latin phrase is “We Dare Maintain Our Rights.” Make sure you know these astonishing facts about each state.
The official mineral for California is gold, so it makes sense that the state motto is associated with the discovery of gold in California. The California Gold Rush in the mid-1800s sparked a movement to the west coast since everyone wanted a part of the action. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Greek word “Eureka” means “I have found it.” According to the California State Library, Greek mathematician Archimedes even exclaimed “Eureka!” after determining the purity of gold. Even though some tried in 1957 to have “In God We Trust” as the state motto, the Greek word became the official motto in 1963. California has been known as the “The Golden State” since 1968—do you know how every state got its nickname?
Florida’s official state motto, “In God We Trust,” is a recent development from the past two decades. Only made official in 2006, the state motto is also the same as our national motto, “In God We Trust.” Until then, Florida had a slightly different version of the current state motto with, “In God is our Trust” which in 1868 the Florida legislature adopted as part of the state seal. These are the best beaches in Florida locals want to keep secret.
Answer: New Mexico
The state motto for the “Land of Enchantment” is the Latin phrase “Crescit eundo,” which appears on the state seal and is translated as “It grows as it goes.” While it’s unclear when “Crescit eundo” was added to the seal, territorial secretary W. G. Ritch embellished the phrase in 1882 and thus it became the official state motto. However, not everyone is a fan of the state motto. Former New Mexico State Senator Joseph Carraro wanted to change the state motto to “Antiqua Suspice, Crastina Accipe” which translates to “Cherish the Past, Embrace the Future.” Carraro told NPR’s Scott Simon that “no one knows what ‘It Grows as It Goes’ means.” White Sands National Monument in New Mexico is one of the practically secret national parks you’ll want to visit as soon as you can.
Wyoming’s official state motto certainly holds true to its nickname: “The Equality State.” Even though Wyoming was the 44th state admitted to the Union, according to Britannica, it was the first state to “approve a constitution that included a provision granting women the right to vote.” Here are some of the other states where women were allowed to vote before 1920.
Hawaii’s state motto is “Ua Mau ke Ea o ka Aina i ka Pono” which is native Hawaiian and translates to, “the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.” The motto can be found on the bottom of the state seal and on the Hawaii quarter of the United States Mint’s 50 State Quarters Program. These are the best beaches to visit in Hawaii in your lifetime.
Answer: Rhode Island
“The Ocean State” is the smallest state by size in the United States but has more than 400 miles of coastline. With such an optimistic state motto, it’s unfortunate that there’s no official documentation from when Rhode Island officially adopted the state motto, though on May 4, 1664, the Rhode Island General Assembly adopted a state seal with the word “Hope” above an anchor. Hundreds of years later in 1930, the Rhode Island Historical Society published notes from Howard M. Chapin in Illustrations of the Seals, Arms and Flags of Rhode Island. In the text, Chapin wrote the biblical phrase “hope we have as an anchor of the soul” that could have been an inspiration for the seal. Before you go on your next trip, make sure you read through this list of the worst travel nightmares of 2019.
Answer: South Dakota
Dr. Joseph Ward, the founder of the now-closed Yankton College in South Dakota, was the first person to suggest both the Great Seal of South Dakota and what is now the state motto. The adoption occurred in 1885 under the “State of Dakota,” four years before becoming the 40th state in 1889 as the “State of South Dakota.” When in South Dakota, make sure to stop by Rapid City, the “City of Presidents.”
Oregon’s state motto is “She Flies With Her Own Wings;” on the state seal, it is written in Latin as “Alis Volat Propriis.” The motto, adopted by the 1987 Legislature, can be traced back to Judge Jesse Quinn Thornton. However, the “Beaver” state didn’t always have “She Flies With Her Own Wings” as its motto. According to the Oregon Secretary of State website, “The current motto was first adopted in 1854 to honor the independent spirit shown by pioneers who formed the provisional government in the Oregon Country in 1843.” However, “the 1957 legislature approved a change in the motto to ‘The Union,’ to link the story of Oregon’s past with its place in American history.” Unhappy with this decision, various Oregon politicians sponsored a bill to revert the state motto back to “She Flies With Her Own Wings,” which they argued better “reflected Oregon’s tradition of independence and innovation.” After visiting Oregon’s capital, Portland, make sure you go to McMinnville, one of the most underrated American cities worth a visit.
The English translation to the Latin phrase is “He who is Transplanted Still Sustains.” Even though the exact origin of the state motto is unknown, there have been connections with the state seal originating with the Saybrook Colony Seal. Colonel George Fenwick brought the seal from England, where it was first the seal of the Saybrook Colony before being turned over to the Colony of Connecticut in 1639. The Colony, however, was established in 1635. See if you can guess the U.S. state by its flag.
Richard Peter, a Juneau journalist, is credited with creating the state motto, saying the motto “…is a reminder that beyond the horizon of urban clutter there is a Great Land beneath our flag that can provide a new tomorrow for this century’s ‘huddled masses yearning to be free.'” The motto was officially selected at the Alaska Purchase Centennial in 1967 and is considered to “represent Alaska as a land of promise.” When you’re in Alaska, makes sure you have the King crab legs, one of the most delicious food from every state.
Virginia’s official state motto translates to “Thus Always to Tyrants” and can be found on the state flag and the state seal of Virginia. According to History.com, the motto bounds two unpleasant parts of history together: the fatal stabbing of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. and the shooting of Abraham Lincoln in 1865. The Latin phrase is attributed to Marcus Junius Brutus, arguably the most well-known of the group of senators who took part in stabbing Caesar. After shooting Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth reportedly yelled the same Latin phrase.
Colorado’s state motto in Latin “Nil sine Numine” is most often translated as “Nothing without Providence.” However, there’s a lot of debate over the definitive translation of the state motto and some have even remarked the translation could be “Nothing without God.” When Colorado’s state seal was created, the original designers wanted “Nothing without the Deity” to be the translation.
Even though at this point you might be thinking Maryland’s state motto “Fatti Maschii, Parole Femine” is a Latin phrase, it’s not. The phrase is actually archaic Italian, and roughly translates to “Manly Deeds, Womanly Word.” Because of the backlash of the phrase, it’s also translated as “Strong Deeds, Gentle Words.” According to History.com, the Italian phrase is linked to the state because it was “the motto of the Calvert family, the English Catholic barons who founded the Maryland colony in 1632.”Here’s how every state in America got its name.
Answer: North Dakota
The state motto of “The Peace Garden State” is “Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable.” According to History.com, the motto comes directly from an 1830 Senate debate between Daniel Webster of Massachusetts and Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina. It was one of the most famous debates, and Webster’s speech is well-known in American history. As History.com states, “Webster’s robust and eloquent defense of federal powers and national unity must have resonated with the Dakota territorial legislature, who adopted the motto in 1863.” Think you did well on this quiz? See if you know these pieces of United States trivia your teacher might not have taught you.