Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How to Create a Coat of Arms: Part 6

Step 6: Motto

In antiquity, a family might have had a motto. Not all families had mottoes, and they are certainly not required. A motto is a short phrase that represents you, your beliefs, or your goals. Many ancient mottoes were war cries, but some expressed hope, courage, or another sentiment. Mottoes are not held to any rules, so feel free to create your own. These can be written in any language. Latin was common but not required.

A few examples are provided here—some inspirational, some whimsical.

Listen, and walk on.
Never behind.
Beauty is a flower, fame a breath.
Christ's death is to me the death of death.
Either death or honourable life.
Fear shame.
Strong both in faith and war.
The brave always show mercy.
Without God, castles are nothing.
Thou may'st break, but shalt not bend me.
Act your office.
Arms cause laws to be respected.
I am willing but unable.
Good and handsome enough.
Dare to be wise, begin at once.
It does not shame me to have played, but that I have not left off playing.
Mediocrity is safe.
Neither swiftly nor slowly.
This hand is hostile to tyrants.
Trust, but in whom take care.
Sink him in the sea, he comes out fairer.
Faithful to my unhappy country.

A motto should be placed on a scroll either above or below the shield. The placement of the motto, the type of scroll it’s on, and the typestyle are left to your discretion.


There are many different scrolls, or banners, to choose from, or you can create your own. A scroll would be used not only for a motto but also for the family name. You can put the name above the coat of arms and the motto below, or vice versa. The scrolls used for the name and the motto should complement one another.

Here are a few examples of scrolls:

I've repeated two complete coats of arms here so that you can see examples of scrolls and mottoes:


  1. I have a family crest that is Lyons-ish. But not close to any other crests I can Find. Do you specialize in these?

  2. My husband's last name is Lyons. He grew up in Tennessee and Ohio. Several years ago he tried tracing his Grandfather Lyons family roots but reached a deadend in Kentucky 1870 where most of that side of the family lived. That particular relative, David Lyons, was a very common name, and back then, in the "hollers" of Kentucky, not everyone was accounted for by the census takers. We have no clue where his Lyons family ancestors came from, Scotland, Ireland, England or France.

  3. I'm sorry that I'm not able to help you, Dawn. I know little to nothing of my husband's origins as well--only the little I've posted here. I know a lot more about my side of the family (Nicodemus), but that's because there were some geneologists in the family. BTW: My husband has a cousin named Dawn Lyons (her birth name...she's married now).

  4. i lived in west virginia last name lyons grandfathher larry lyons father jeff lyons