noun, plural mottoes, mottos.
a maxim adopted as an expression of the guiding principle of a person, organization, city, etc.
a sentence, phrase, or word expressing the spirit or purpose of a person, organization, city, etc., and often inscribed on a badge, banner, etc.

1580–90; < Italian < Late Latin muttum sound, utterance. See mot Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
motto (ˈmɒtəʊ)
n , pl -toes, -tos
1.  a short saying expressing the guiding maxim or ideal of a family, organization, etc, esp when part of a coat of arms
2.  a short explanatory phrase inscribed on or attached to something
3.  a verse or maxim contained in a paper cracker
4.  a quotation prefacing a book or chapter of a book
5.  a recurring musical phrase
[C16: via Italian from Latin muttum utterance]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

1589, from It. motto "a saying, legend attached to a heraldic design," from L.L. muttum "grunt, word," from L. muttire "to mutter, mumble, murmur."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
It could be his motto and, behind it, one can almost hear him laughing.
My motto has always been that it's got to be a round-trip.
Hot pink walls and a stenciled motto punch up this tiny eating area.
There are a ton of commonly quoted lyrics but no motto.
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