How Many U.S. State Mottos Can You Identify?



By: Tasha Moore

6 Min Quiz

Image: M_a_y_a/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Please grant the citizens of the United States some assistance by identifying these state mottos. Most mottos have been in existence since territories were catapulted to statehood status, yet many U.S. citizens don't know their state's phrases. And yes, there are assorted languages to consider, but don't let that deter you from sorting out these catchphrases.

Group mottos are meant to sum up the missions, aspirations and/or histories of a people. This is precisely why states were prompted to select fitting maxims to promote the unifying message of their inhabitants. Alaska's phrase, "North to the Future," tells you exactly where the citizens set their sights after the United States purchased the territory from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million. Although many Alaskans pursue higher education outside the state, many either return to the state or contribute in some way to help make their native region stronger. 

Although Hawaii has experienced a severe land shortage since the state was born in 1959, the state's aphorism, "Ua Mau ke Ea o ka Aina i ka Pono," meaning "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness," speaks of the land's physical as well as spiritual attributes. So perhaps land scarcity is not such an alarming issue for Hawaiians, according to their hopeful phrase.

Keep the positive vibes flowing as you guess the mottos that have been selected to summarize assorted states' purposes!

New York's "superior" state motto appears on an ivy league coin. Can you ID the dictum?

New York state's motto, "Excelsior," means "ever upward." The one-word adage suggests that excellence is the state's prime attribute. Yale University's Brasher Doubloon is a rare coin that features the motto on its obverse side.


Some allege that the English translation of Maryland's textually "chubby" male-female motto is sexist. Can you select the answer with this hint?

"Fatti maschii, parole femine" is an old Italian phrase that means "manly deeds, womanly words." Marland's controversial adage was borrowed from the family crest of the Calverts, who established the U.S. state.


Georgia is proud to showcase its "intelligent" motto on a state quarter. Can you pick the correct phrase?

Starting in January 1999, the U.S. Treasury Department commenced production of new U.S. state quarters. Georgia's approved design featured an oak tree and the state's maxim, "Wisdom, Justice, Moderation."


Maine borrowed the name of its health care plan from the state's single-word platitude, which is ________.

Maine's healthcare plan is named after the state's motto, "Dirigo," which is Latin for "I lead." In 2003, Maine made a shift to universal health coverage that was crafted to grant access to some 180,000 residents who could not afford coverage.


Many Texans rejected the idea of including the state motto on license plates. How well do you know the "genial" phrase?

In 1989, the Texas Department of Highways and Public Transportation publicized a new design for the state's license plate to include the phrase, "The Friendship State." Many Texans quickly rejected the new illustration.


Louisiana's flag displays synonyms for fusion, fairness, faith, which are ________.

Louisiana adopted its state flag in 1912, but the banner had been used informally for many years before that time. The flag features the state bird, the pelican, as well as the state's platitude, "Union, Justice, Confidence."


What is the "indivisible" maxim for North Dakota, which achieved statehood on Nov. 2, 1889?

North Dakota was admitted to the Union as the 37th state. The western meadowlark is the state bird, the wild prairie rose is the state flower and the North Dakota Hymn is the state song.


Idaho's motto means "Let it be perpetual." What's another way to express this phrase?

The Idaho State Historical Society honors organizations and individuals with the Esto Perpetua Award in recognition of public service, philanthropy or volunteer work that benefits the preservation of Idaho's heritage. The awards program began in 1999.


Which "placid" motto appears on Massachusetts' state seal?

A rough translation for Massachusetts' state motto is "By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty." The phrase is borrowed from mid-17th century English soldier Algernon Sydney.


Did you know that the U.S. federal government owns most of Nevada's land? What is the state's pro-nation motto?

Nevada is nicknamed the "Battle Born State.". Every October 31, Nevada celebrates "Nevada Day" to commemorate statehood. In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation admitting it as the 36th state into the Union.


The adage for West Virginia was developed during the American Civil War. What is it?

In 1863, French-born American artist Joseph H. Diss Debar proposed the state motto for West Virginia, which means "Mountaineers Are Always Free." Debar also created the design for the state's seal.


Wyoming granted women the right to vote for a specific reason. See if you can spot the state's relevant catchphrase that connotes fairness?

Wyoming's state motto, "Equal Rights," served as an advertisement to attract more women to the state. As a territory, Wyoming did not have enough people to petition for statehood.


South Carolina's sunrise license plate was replaced by a plate that includes which of these words?

In 2015, the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles introduced the new design for the state's license plate that includes the English version of the state's motto, "While I breathe, I hope." The state retired the old tag amid complaints that it promoted the school colors of Clemson University.


Ohio's state motto, which was the suggestion of a 12-year-old Cincinnati boy, is perhaps the most controversial of them all. Is it difficult for you to identify the Christian proverb?

In 2000, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio, ruled that Ohio's motto, "With God, All Things Are Possible," referenced the Bible, and therefore was a violation of First Amendment rights. However, various federal courts allowed the state to retain the quote, ruling that since it did not name a specific God, it did not violate the First Amendment. The quote was borrowed from the New Testament in the Christian Bible.


In the early 1990s, a state lawmaker petitioned to nix New Hampshire's license plate because she disapproved of which "liberating" motto?

New Hampshire adopted its state motto, "Live Free or Die," in 1945. In 1970, the adage replaced the words, "Scenic New Hampshire," on the state's license plate. In 2006, state legislators resolved to include the saying on highway signage.


Colorado's state adage means "Nothing without providence." Do you identify the "n"-heavy translation?

The U.S. state of Colorado adopted its state flag on June 5, 1911. Then, in 1929, the General Assembly of Colorado specified that the red and blue colors of the state flag match the red and blue on the United States flag.


Iowa approved its long state motto nearly 170 years ago. Can you recognize it?

Iowa adopted the motto when it joined the Union on December 28, 1846. The motto is also placed on the state's official seal and it's said it was inspired by the difficulties Iowa faced when it tried to establish itself as a state.


The average daily travel time to work in Delaware is 24 minutes. Can you guess the state's "free"-friendly phrase?

The blue background of Delaware's state flag symbolizes General George Washington's uniform. The state's bird is the blue hen chicken, and poultry, corn and wheat are the state's biggest exports.


Kentucky has a conventional motto as well as an official Latin phrase, which is ________.

Kentucky's Latin motto translates in English to "Let us be grateful to God." The state's more conventional motto is "United we stand, divided we fall. FUN FACT: The Chevrolet Corvette is Kentucky's official sports car.


Identify the "virtuous" phrase that appears with "Commonwealth" on Pennsylvania's state quarter?

The Keystone State's U.S. Mint quarter also includes as a background the state's keystone outline. "Commonwealth" is the name of the statue propped on top of the Pennsylvania Capitol dome in Harrisburg.


A portion of Connecticut's three-word motto was included in a plan to give the state's uninsured health coverage.

SustiNet is the name of Connecticut's health care plan that the state's legislature passed in 2009. The English translation of the state's Latin motto is "He Who Transplanted Still Sustains."


Montana's non-food-related motto is in Spanish. Do you see it?

"Gold and silver" is the English translation of Montana's Spanish motto. The state's phrase is in sync with its rich mining history. For a time, the state reaped millions of silver quarters by way of its​ video gaming industry in the 1980s.


In Hawaii, usable land is scarce, but the state has plenty of letters in its vowel-heavy motto. Can you guess the state's phrase?

Translated into English, the Hawaiian state phrase means "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness." Only 171,214 acres of the 4 million total acres that comprise the state's six main islands are designated for urban use.


Indiana boasts more miles of highway per square mile than any other U.S. state. What is a suitable "America" motto for Indiana?

Although the state of Indiana has more miles of interstate highway than any other state, Indiana has struggled to repair neglected roadway and other infrastructure in the past. In 1987, the Build Indiana Council was launched to support rehabilitation projects.


Mississippi's state fossil is the prehistoric whale. Now, guess the state's phrase?

"By virtue and arms" is Mississippi's English-version motto. The state doesn't have a football team, boasts 359 miles of shoreline, seceded from the Union once and is the birthplace of Elvis Presley.


Among the options, which maxim appears on Missouri's state flag?

"The welfare of the people should be the supreme law" is the English translation of the Latin phrase. In 1987, Missouri's General Assembly approved the fiddle as the official state musical instrument.


The directional state motto for Alaska is ________.

Alaska adopted "North to the Future" as its state motto in 1967. One hundred years prior to this, the Alaskan Territory was purchased by the United States from Russia for $7.2 million.


There is no point in Michigan that is more than 85 miles from one of the North American Great Lakes or more than 6 miles from an inland body of water. Can you identify the state's phrase?

In the state of Michigan, hunting the white-tailed deer, the state's official game mammal, generates several hundred million dollars in state revenue yearly. Michigan's Latin phrase means "If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you."


A contending design for Nebraska's new state quarter in the early 2000s was of Ponca Chief Standing Bear. How easy is it for you to choose Nebraska's "legislative" motto?

The winning state quarter design was of a wagon with the Chimney Rock landmark in the background. Another losing quarter illustration depicted the State Capitol and the phrase, "Home of the Unicameral."


Nelson Dewey and Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Edward Ryan made the final motto decision for the state. What word did the two settle on?

In the mid-18th century, University of Wisconsin C​hancellor John Lathrop wished to use the Wisconsin Territory's Latin phrase, "Civilitas Successit Barbaruin," which means "Civilization Succeeds Barbarism." Before setting the Latin phrase in stone, Dewey and Ryan chose the "Forward" axiom instead.


Vermont's motto references the state's Union status. Can you guess which one it is?

Vermont's Latin motto went into effect on July 1, 2015. It means "May the fourteenth star shine bright" and used to appear on the state's coins. Vermont is the 14th state of the Union.


Oklahoma's work-related phrase first appeared on its territorial seal. Can you identify the motto?

"Labor Conquers All Things" is the meaning of Oklahoma's motto, which the state supposedly had not legally adopted. The phrase was incorporated into Oklahoma's state seal in 1907.


Washington's time-sensitive motto, "Alki," means ________.

"Alki" is an indigenous word that also implies the meanings "sooner or later" or "in a little while." The ambitious early settlers of Seattle, Washington, named their territory "New York-Alki."


South Dakota displays its phrase on the state seal. Is the divine motto obvious among the options?

Florida borrowed its state motto from the United States' national adage, "In God We Trust." South Dakota's state flag also includes the motto-bearing state seal, as well as the year it achieved statehood, 1889.


Arizona is one of several states whose motto references God. Can you determine Arizona's alliterative aphorism?

Ohio's motto, "With God, all things are possible," was restored in 2001 after a federal court ruled that the motto held more historical significance than religious meaning. The English translation of Arizona's Latin motto is "God enriches."​


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!