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
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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
But this endearing movie's mottoes are: never stop caring.
On the sides of the canopy the putti hold open books with inscribed mottoes.
Every state has its own symbols, such as flags, mottoes and songs.
Signs with tough mottoes remind inmates that they are in shock incarceration.
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