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Esse quam videri

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Title: Esse quam videri  
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Subject: North Carolina, Ashville College, Albert Academy, Academy of the Holy Names (Florida), Berklee College of Music
Collection: Latin Mottos, State Mottos of the United States, Symbols of North Carolina
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Esse quam videri

Esse quam videri is a Latin phrase meaning "To be, rather than to seem (to be)". It has been used as a motto by a number of different groups.


  • History 1
  • Usage as a motto 2
    • North Carolina 2.1
    • Schools and Colleges 2.2
    • Sororities 2.3
    • Fraternities 2.4
    • Sporting organisations 2.5
    • Companies 2.6
    • Families 2.7
    • Other organizations 2.8
    • Popular culture 2.9
  • References 3


Esse quam videri is found in Cicero's essay "On Friendship" ("De amicitia", chapter 98). "Virtute enim ipsa non tam multi praediti esse quam videri volunt" (Few are those who wish to be endowed with virtue rather than to seem so).

Just a few years after Cicero, Sallust used the phrase in his Bellum Catilinae (54.6), writing that Cato the Younger "esse quam videri bonus malebat" (He preferred to be good rather than to seem so).

Previous to both Romans, Aeschylus used a similar phrase in Seven Against Thebes at line 592, at which the scout (angelos) says of the seer/priest Amphiaraos: "ou gar dokein aristos, all' einai theile" (his resolve is not to seem the best but in fact to be the best). Plato quoted this line in Republic (361b).

Niccolò Machiavelli reversed this phrase to videri quam esse (to seem rather than to be).[1]

Usage as a motto

North Carolina

Great Seal of North Carolina with the state motto esse quam videri.

Esse quam videri is the state motto of North Carolina, adopted in 1893.

It is unusual that, until the act of 1893, the state of North Carolina had no motto since its declaration of independence. It was one of the few states that did not have a motto, and the only one of the original thirteen without one.

Schools and Colleges

Esse quam videri is (or was) the motto of a number of schools and colleges around the world, including:

Villa Devoto School, Buenos Aires, Argentina


Esse quam videri is the motto of the following sororities:


Esse quam videri is the motto of the following fraternities:

  • Phi Lambda Sigma, Lebanon Valley College, est. 1867.
  • Alpha Pi Alpha, SUNY Albany, 1952 through 1987.
  • Epsilon Kappa Delta, Florida Institute of Technology, 1968 through 1972.
  • Archons, Kenyon College
  • Phi Beta, founded 1912
  • Phi Gamma Nu, National Professional Fraternity in Business, est. Northwestern University 1924.
  • Nu Kappa Phi, Est. 1952 - University of Nueva Caceres, Naga City, Philippines
  • Edwards Hall, University of Newcastle, Australia, est. 1972

Sporting organisations

  • Kingswood Rugby Football Club, Bristol, UK, use a variant of the motto, "Esse Non Videri" as their club motto.[24]
  • White Wolves MC,[25] Oradea, RO, use a variant of the motto, "Esse Quam Videri Malim" as their club motto.


  • Brepols Publishers, as found on their older books: "Melius esse quam videri"
  • Swire Group[26]
  • EQV (UK) Ltd, A computer and management training company,[27] who are based in Leicestershire, UK.
  • The phrase is found on the Sibley Mill along the Augusta Canal in Augusta, Georgia. The structure was completed in 1882 and operated until 2006.
  • Raleigh Denim, based in Raleigh, North Carolina


Esse quam videri is the motto used on the coats of arms of the following families: Acraman, Adams, Allies, Bakewell, Barnard, Beadon, Bonham, Bostock, Bourne, Bowen, Bowne, Breamore, Brownlee, Brownlow, Cady, Cambria, Cavallaro, Roy Clarke, Clavering, Cook, Coutts, Crawley, Creer, Croft, Crofts, Dickinson, Downes, Frank, Harmer, Halliday, Hamill (Ó hAdhmaill, Ó hAghmaill, Hammill), Hannum, Henshaw, Hood, Houk, Isserman, Ivey, Lee, Longley, McManners, Manning, Mannion, Maxson, Miller zu Aichholz, Mochrie, Moorman, Morrisset, van Oijen family coat of arms, Oglethorpe, Panon-Desbassayns de Richemont, Planta, Proud, Partridge family coat of arms, see A genealogical and heraldic dictionary of the landed gentry of England..., Volume 2 By Sir Bernard Burke, Pickard-Cambridge, Pridgen, Renshaw, Reynes, Round (Essex County), Rowe, Seward, Shreeve, Sherriff, Sibley, Sturges, Swire, Strickland, Thurston, Thruston, Turner, Tyler, Vorsatz, Walmsley, Womack and Woodgate.

It was also the motto used within the Brockman coat of arms circa 1700 as well as the Polish Urbanowicz coat of arms.

Other organizations

Esse quam videri is the motto of the 309th US Infantry Regiment.

Esse quam videri is the motto of the honor society The Order of Scroll and Key at Dickinson College.

It is also the motto of The National Honor & Merit Scholars Society.[28]

The motto is part of the family coat of arms of Sir William Hooker, Lord mayor of London in the 1600s, mentioned by Samuel Pepys in his diaries; also the English Kent Hookers on memorials in Brenchley Church Kent.

It is also the motto of the Carolina Wilderness EMS Externship, a wilderness EMS training program based in western North Carolina.[29]

Esse quam videri is also the motto of the Brigham Young University Men's Chorus.[30]

Esse quam videri is the slogan of custom motorcycle shop FTW CYCLES, and is often seen on their t-shirts, flyers and other promotional material.

No. 77 Squadron RAF (active during three periods between 1916 and 1963) used the variant, Esse potius quam videri with the same meaning.

Esse quam videri is the motto of the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew, 19 of which died in the Yarnell Hill fire in Yarnell, Arizona on June 30, 2013.

Esse quam videri is the motto of the 2013's USA U23 Women's Ultimate Frisbee team that won gold at the World Flying Disc Federation Under-23 Ultimate Championships which were held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on July 22–28, 2013.

Popular culture

Television personality Stephen Colbert inverts this statement on his show The Colbert Report to be Videri Quam Esse,[31] meaning "to seem to be rather than to be." It is also engraved across the faux hearth, above the video fireplace, in his studio, under his portrait.


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  29. ^ "Carolina Wilderness EMS Externship - Official Home Page". Retrieved 2012-01-26. 
  30. ^ "Men’s Chorus Philosophy: Esse Quam Videri". Brigham Young University. Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
  31. ^ "Stephen Colbert's new Latin motto". 2010-01-17. Retrieved 2014-12-31. 
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