A motto is a short saying of around four words or less, which appears below a device. Historically, mottos were usually in Latin, though they were often in French. In Scottish heraldry the motto appears above the device and were more frequently in English.
Some mottos are derived from war cries, some from the device of the heraldry itself, some from the name of the bearer (eg per se valens for Perceval), but usually they are just pithy sayings. Mottoes may be changed by the bearer of the arms, but they are commonly carried through many generations.
Some notable mottos are
- Shakespeare: Non sans droit (not without right)
- Wallace: Hold fast
- England: Dieu et mon droit (God and my right)
Mottos have no official place in SCA heraldry, but are often included on peerage scrolls. Humour can sometimes play a major role in choosing the words, as the use of a foreign language can hide the true meaning. The language may even be badly written (especially bad Latin) for the sake of the humour. eg. Carpe jugulum - Seize the Throat