Adopted in 1893, North Carolina's motto, Esse Quam Videri, signifying To be rather than to seem, may be found in Cicero's De Amicitia, Section 26, line 16. The sense in which Cicero used this expression in the De Amicitia is different from that in which the motto is used today. Cicero says, enim ipsa non tam multi praediti esse quam videri volunt... meaning thereby, indeed not so many wish to be endowed with virtue as wish to seem to be...
In 1893 the North Carolina General Assembly adopted the Latin words "Esse Quam Videri" as the state motto
and directed that these words be placed with the state's Coat of Arms and the date "20 May, 1775" upon the
great seal. Until the act of 1893 North Carolina had no motto, one of the few states without one (and the
only one of the original thirteen).
The motto is a literal translation of a phrase from a sentence in Cicero's "On Friendship" (De Amicitia, chapter 26). The complete sentence in Latin is: "Virtute enim ipsa non tam multi praediti esse quam videri volunt ."
Translations (from North Carolina State Library):
"Fewer possess virtue, than those who wish us to believe that they possess it."
"The fact is that fewer people are endowed with virtue than wish to be thought to be so."
"Not nearly so many people want actually to be possessed of virtue as want to appear to be possessed of it."
"The Numbers of the really virtuous are not so great, as they appear to be."
Chapter 144 - State Flag, Motto and Colors.
SECTION 144-2. State motto.
§ 144-2. State motto.
The words "esse quam videri" are hereby adopted as the motto of this State, and as such shall be engraved on the great seal of North Carolina and likewise at the foot of the coat of arms of the State as a part thereof. On the coat of arms, in addition to the motto, at the bottom, there shall be inscribed at the top the words, "May 20th, 1775." (1893, c. 145; Rev., s. 5320; C.S., s. 7536.)
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