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Coming up with a single phrase to describe an entire country can be a bit tricky. Often, a national motto can end up on the eccentric side and tilt some heads. Here are some of the most interesting national mottos from around the world.
“We Wish to Remain What We Are”
The small country of Luxembourg is surrounded by major European powers like Germany, France, and Belgium. Never wanting to be overwhelmed by neighboring cultures, the people of Luxembourg adopted the national motto, “Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sin,” which translates to, “We wish to remain what we are.” They believed that it would strengthen their own national identity. You can find the motto on restaurant menus and street signs and even in graffiti on public walls.
“No One Provokes Me With Impunity”
The Scottish have never been afraid to do their own thing. They wear kilts, their national animal is a unicorn, and their national cloth is tartan, which is basically plaid wool. If you don’t like any of that, they’re going to let you have it! The Scottish have adopted the national motto, “Nemo me impune lacessit,” which is Latin for “No one provokes me with impunity.” So, if you ever had the inkling to tell a Scotsman that unicorns aren’t real, prepare to deal with the consequences.
“Freedom or Death”
While this might sound like it belongs in the United States with such mottos as “Live Free or Die” (New Hampshire’s state motto) or “Give me liberty, or give me death” (Patrick Henry’s congressional battle cry for the U.S. revolution against Britain), it actually belongs to Greece.
“Freedom or Death” was a popular inspirational phrase used during the War of Greek Independence as the Greeks fought the Ottoman Empire in 1821. When the war was finished and Greece was an independent nation once again, they adopted the phrase as their official national motto.
“Withersoever You Throw It, It Will Stand”
This interesting national motto comes from the British crown dependency, the Isle of Man. In the 13th century, the Isle of Man had three kings who ruled the island. Instead of fighting for land like most kings at the time, they thought of their multiple rulers as a strength. They adopted the three legs symbol as their national emblem to represent the three rulers.
The three-legs symbol depicts three legs running around a circle. No matter which way the symbol rotates, there will always be a leg facing down or standing. This led to the creation of the strange motto, “Quocunque jeceris stabit,” which is Latin for “Withersoever you throw it, it will stand.” No matter what happens, the Isle of Man will persist.
“It’s Austria’s Destiny to Rule the World”
Frederick V was an Austrian who was elected as King of Germany in 1440. He was later crowned the Holy Roman Emperor and earned the title of Frederick III. Apparently, he made some lofty goals for himself that he wanted everyone to know about. When he took over as emperor, he began to use the motto, “Austriae est imperare orbi universo,” which is Latin for “It’s Austria’s destiny to rule the world.” Apparently, he wasn’t much for subtlety.
“By Reason or Force”
It's hard to come around to the Chilean way of thinking. The people of Chile have adopted the national motto, “Por la razón o la fuerza,” which is Spanish for “By reason or by force” or “By right or by might.” At least it’s in the right order.
“One for All, All for One”
You might recognize this motto from “The Three Musketeers,” but Switzerland’s citizens liked it so much that they adopted it as their national motto. Switzerland became a country four years after Alexandre Dumas published his famous book. The phrase isn’t credited to Dumas, but it was a common expression throughout Europe in the 19th century. Officially, the motto is written in Latin as “Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno.”
“Under the Shade, I Flourish”
If you’ve ever been to a tropical beach, you know that you can handle only so much time in the sun. It would only make sense that a warm, sunny, and tropical island would come up with a national motto suitable for relaxing on a beach. The country of Belize uses “Sub umbra florero” as its national motto. In English, it translates to “Under the shade, I flourish.” Specifically, it means “Under the shade of a mahogany tree.” The motto is even used on the country’s coat of arms and the national flag.