E pluribus unum

Last updated

E pluribus unum included in the Great Seal of the United States, being one of the nation's mottos at the time of the seal's creation Great Seal of the United States (obverse).svg
E pluribus unum included in the Great Seal of the United States, being one of the nation's mottos at the time of the seal's creation

E pluribus unum ( /ˈplɜːrɪbəsˈnəm/ ee PLUR-ib-əs OO-nəm, Classical Latin: [ˈpluːrɪbʊsˈuːnʊ̃] , Latin pronunciation: [eˈpluribusˈunum] ) – Latin for "Out of many, one" [1] [2] (also translated as "One out of many" [3] or "One from many" [4] ) – is a traditional motto of the United States, appearing on the Great Seal along with Annuit cœptis (Latin for "he approves the undertaking [lit. 'things undertaken']") and Novus ordo seclorum (Latin for "New order of the ages") which appear on the reverse of the Great Seal; its inclusion on the seal was suggested by Pierre Eugene du Simitiere and approved in an act of the Congress of the Confederation in 1782. [2] The first word of E pluribus unum is actually an abbreviation of the Latin preposition ex, meaning "out of." While its status as national motto was for many years unofficial, E pluribus unum was still considered the de facto motto of the United States from its early history. [5] Eventually, the U.S. Congress passed an act in 1956 (H. J. Resolution 396), adopting "In God We Trust" as the official motto. [6]


That the phrase "E pluribus unum" has thirteen letters makes its use symbolic of the original Thirteen Colonies which rebelled against the rule of the Kingdom of Great Britain and became the first thirteen states, represented today as the thirteen stripes on the American flag.

Meaning of the motto

Original 1776 design for the Great Seal by Pierre Eugene du Simitiere. The shields with 13 initials of the colonies surrounding symbols for the six origin nations England (rose), Scotland (thistle), Ireland (harp), Holland (the Netherlands) (lion), France (fleur-de-lis), and Germany (eagle) linked together with motto. SealOfTheUS Prototype.png
Original 1776 design for the Great Seal by Pierre Eugene du Simitiere. The shields with 13 initials of the colonies surrounding symbols for the six origin nations England (rose), Scotland (thistle), Ireland (harp), Holland (the Netherlands) (lion), France (fleur-de-lis), and Germany (eagle) linked together with motto.

The meaning of the phrase originated from the concept that out of the union of the original Thirteen Colonies emerged a new single nation. [8] It is emblazoned across the scroll and clenched in the eagle's beak on the Great Seal of the United States. [8] [9]


The 13-letter motto was suggested in 1776 by Pierre Eugene du Simitiere to the committee responsible for developing the seal. At the time of the American Revolution, the phrase appeared regularly on the title page of the London-based Gentleman's Magazine , founded in 1731, [10] [11] which collected articles from many sources into one periodical. This usage in turn can be traced back to the London-based Huguenot Peter Anthony Motteux, who had employed the adage for his The Gentleman's Journal, or the Monthly Miscellany (1692–1694). The phrase is similar to a Latin translation of a variation of Heraclitus's tenth fragment, "The one is made up of all things, and all things issue from the one" (ἐκ πάντων ἓν καὶ ἐξ ἑνὸς πάντα). A variant of the phrase was used in "Moretum", a poem belonging to the Appendix Virgiliana, describing (on the surface at least) the making of moretum , a kind of herb and cheese spread related to modern pesto. In the poem text, color est e pluribus unus describes the blending of colors into one. St Augustine used a variant of the phrase, ex pluribus unum facere (make one out of many), in his Confessions. [12] But it seems more likely that the phrase refers to Cicero's paraphrase of Pythagoras in his De Officiis , as part of his discussion of basic family and social bonds as the origin of societies and states: "When each person loves the other as much as himself, it makes one out of many (unum fiat ex pluribus), as Pythagoras wishes things to be in friendship." [13]

While Annuit cœptis ("He favors our undertakings") and Novus ordo seclorum ("New order of the ages") appear on the reverse side of the Great Seal, E Pluribus Unum appears on the obverse side of the seal (designed by Charles Thomson), the image of which is used as the national emblem of the United States, and appears on official documents such as passports. It also appears on the seal of the President and in the seals of the Vice President of the United States, of the United States Congress, of the United States House of Representatives, of the United States Senate and on the seal of the United States Supreme Court.

Usage on coins

Draped Bust half dollar (reverse), 1807 1807 half dollar rev.jpg
Draped Bust half dollar (reverse), 1807
Dime E pluribus unum engraving.
1 Dime (United States).jpg
Obverse: Portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt, year and US national motto (In God We Trust)Reverse: E pluribus unum, olive branch, torch and oak branch, face-value and country

The first coins with E pluribus unum were dated 1786 and struck under the authorization of New Jersey by Thomas Goadsby and Albion Cox in Rahway, New Jersey. [14] The motto had no New Jersey linkage but was likely an available die that had been created by Walter Mould the previous year for a failed federal coinage proposal. [15] Walter Mould was also authorized by New Jersey to strike state coppers with this motto and did so beginning in early 1787 in Morristown, New Jersey. Lt. Col. Seth Read of Uxbridge, Massachusetts was said to have been instrumental in having E pluribus unum placed on U.S. coins. [16] Seth Read and his brother Joseph Read had been authorized by the Massachusetts General Court to mint coppers in 1786. In March 1786, Seth Read petitioned the Massachusetts General Court, both the House and the Senate, for a franchise to mint coins, both copper and silver, and "it was concurred". [17] [18] E pluribus unum, written in capital letters, is included on most U.S. currency, with some exceptions to the letter spacing (such as the reverse of the dime). It is also embossed on the edge of the dollar coin. (See United States coinage and paper bills in circulation).

According to the U.S. Treasury, the motto E pluribus unum was first used on U.S. coinage in 1795, when the reverse of the half-eagle ($5 gold) coin presented the main features of the Great Seal of the United States. E pluribus unum is inscribed on the Great Seal's scroll. The motto was added to certain silver coins in 1798, and soon appeared on all of the coins made out of precious metals (gold and silver). In 1834, it was dropped from most of the gold coins to mark the change in the standard fineness of the coins. In 1837, it was dropped from the silver coins, marking the era of the Revised Mint Code. The Coinage Act of 1873 made the inscription a requirement of law upon the coins of the United States. E pluribus unum appears on all U.S. coins currently being manufactured, including the Presidential dollars that started being produced in 2007, where it is inscribed on the edge along with "In God We Trust" and the year and mint mark. After the revolution, Rahway, New Jersey became the home of the first national mint to create a coin bearing the inscription E pluribus unum.

In a quality control error in early 2007 the Philadelphia Mint issued some one-dollar coins without E pluribus unum on the rim; these coins have since become collectibles.

The 2009 and 2010 pennies feature a new design on the back, which displays the phrase E pluribus unum in larger letters than in previous years. [1]

Other usages

U.S. Government

Other countries' governments


Arts and media

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Great Seal of the United States</span> National seal of the United States

The Great Seal is a national symbol of the United States. The phrase is used both for the physical seal itself, which is kept by the United States secretary of state, and more generally for the design impressed upon it. The obverse of the Great Seal depicts the national coat of arms of the United States while the reverse features a truncated pyramid topped by an Eye of Providence. The year of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, 1776, is noted in Roman numerals at the base of the pyramid. The seal contains three Latin phrases: E Pluribus Unum, Annuit cœptis, and Novus ordo seclorum.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Penny (United States coin)</span> Lowest-value physical American currency

The cent, the United States of America one-cent coin, often called the "penny", is a unit of currency equaling one one-hundredth of a United States of America dollar. It has been the lowest face-value physical unit of U.S. currency since the abolition of the half-cent in 1857. The first U.S. cent was produced in 1787, and the cent has been issued primarily as a copper or copper-plated coin throughout its history. Due to inflation, pennies have lost virtually all their purchasing power and are often viewed as an expensive burden to businesses, banks, government and the public in general.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Coat of arms of New York</span> Official government emblem of the U.S. state of New York

The coat of arms of the state of New York was formally adopted in 1778, and appears as a component of the state's flag and seal.

<i>Novus ordo seclorum</i> Mottos that appear on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States

The phrase Novus ordo seclorum is one of two Latin mottos on the reverse side of the Great Seal of the United States. The other motto is Annuit cœptis. The mottos were coined by Charles Thomson, the secretary of the Congress of the Confederation.

<i>Annuit cœptis</i> Motto on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States

Annuit cœptis is one of two mottos on the reverse side of the Great Seal of the United States. The literal translation is "[He] favors [our] undertakings", from Latin annuo, and coeptum. Because of its context as a caption above the Eye of Providence, the standard translations are "Providence favors our undertakings" and "Providence has favored our undertakings".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pierre Eugene du Simitiere</span>

Pierre Eugene du Simitiere was a Genevan American member of the American Philosophical Society, naturalist, American patriot, and portrait painter.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Twenty-cent piece (United States coin)</span> Coin of the United States (1875–1878)

The American twenty-cent piece is a coin struck from 1875 to 1878, but only for collectors in the final two years. Proposed by Nevada Senator John P. Jones, it proved a failure due to confusion with the quarter, to which it was close in both size and value.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stella (United States coin)</span> Four-dollar coin minted 1879–1880

The United States four dollar coin, also officially called a Stella, is a unit of currency equivalent to four United States dollars.

National symbols of the United States are the symbols used to represent the United States of America.

The Coinage Act of 1864 was a United States federal law passed on April 22, 1864, which changed the composition of the one-cent coin and authorized the minting of the two-cent coin. The Director of the U.S. Mint developed the designs for these coins for final approval of the Secretary of the Treasury. As a result of this law, the phrase "In God We Trust" first appeared, on the 1864 two-cent coin. An Act of Congress, passed on March 3, 1865, allowed the Mint Director, with the Secretary's approval, to place the phrase on all gold and silver coins that "shall admit the inscription thereon." In 1956, "In God We Trust" replaced "E Pluribus Unum" as the national motto. All currency was printed and minted with the new motto.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Quarter eagle</span> Gold coin issued by the United States

The quarter eagle was a gold coin issued by the United States with a value of two hundred and fifty cents, or two dollars and fifty cents. It was given its name in the Coinage Act of 1792, as a derivation from the US ten-dollar eagle coin.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Half eagle</span> Gold coin issued by the United States face valued at five dollars

The half eagle is a United States coin that was produced for circulation from 1795 to 1929 and in commemorative and bullion coins since 1983. Composed almost entirely of gold, its face value of five dollars is half that of the eagle coin. Production of the half eagle was authorized by the Coinage Act of 1792, and it was the first gold coin minted by the United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Draped Bust</span> Former design used on United States coinage

"Draped Bust" was the name given to a design of United States coins. It appeared on much of the regular-issue copper and silver United States coinage, 1796–1807. It was designed by engraver Robert Scot.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Seth Read</span> American politician (1746–1797)

Seth Read was born in Uxbridge in Worcester County, Massachusetts, and died at Erie, Pennsylvania, as "Seth Reed", at age 51.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United States national motto</span> Motto of the United States of America

The modern motto of the United States of America, as established in a 1956 law signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, is "In God we trust". The phrase first appeared on U.S. coins in 1864.

<i>Stella quarta decima</i> Vermont coin motto

Stella quarta decima is a motto appearing on Vermont copper coinage struck in 1785 and 1786. The coins were issued during the period when Vermont was an independent state (1777–1791), sometimes referred to as the Vermont Republic.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fugio cent</span> First official circulation coin of the United States

The Fugio cent, also known as the Franklin cent, is the first official circulation coin of the United States. Consisting of 0.36 oz (10 g) of copper and minted dated 1787, by some accounts it was designed by Benjamin Franklin. Its design is very similar to Franklin's 1776 Continental Currency dollar coin that was produced in pattern pieces as potential Continental currency but was never circulated.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Classic Head</span> 19th century American coin design

The Classic Head was a coin design issued by the United States Mint in the early 19th century. It was introduced for copper coinage in 1808 by engraver John Reich and later redesigned by Chief Engraver William Kneass.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lincoln cent</span> One-cent United States coin

The Lincoln cent is a one-cent coin that has been struck by the United States Mint since 1909. The obverse or heads side was designed by Victor David Brenner, as was the original reverse, depicting two stalks of wheat. The coin has seen several reverse, or tails, designs and now bears one by Lyndall Bass depicting a Union shield. All coins struck by the United States government with a value of 1100 of a dollar are called cents because the United States has always minted coins using decimals. The penny nickname is a carryover from the coins struck in England, which went to decimals for coins in 1971.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Liberty Head double eagle</span> American twenty-dollar gold piece

The Liberty Head double eagle or Coronet double eagle is an American twenty-dollar gold piece struck as a pattern coin in 1849, and for commerce from 1850 to 1907. It was designed by Mint of the United States Chief Engraver James B. Longacre.


  1. 1 2 "E Pluribus Unum". treasury.gov. Retrieved March 29, 2012.
  2. 1 2 "E Pluribus Unum - Origin and Meaning of the Motto Carried by the American Eagle". Greatseal.com. November 28, 2011. Retrieved April 28, 2012.
  3. "E Pluribus Unum 2". Collins English Dictionary: Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins. Retrieved December 23, 2012.
  4. "E Pluribus Unum" . Retrieved March 29, 2012.
  5. Bittker, Boris; Idleman, Scott; Ravitch, Frank (2015). Religion and the State in American Law. Cambridge University Press. p. 136. ISBN   9781107071827.
  6. "Text of H.J.Res. 396 (84th): Joint resolution to establish a national motto of the United States (Passed Congress version) - GovTrack.us". GovTrack.us.
  7. Beans, Bruce E. (1997). Eagle's Plume: The Struggle to Preserve the Life and Haunts of America's Bald Eagle. University of Nebraska Press. p. 58. ISBN   9780803261426 . Retrieved January 10, 2021.
  8. 1 2 The Great Seal of the United States - U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs (Page: 6)
  9. E. Beans, Bruce (January 1997). Eagle's Plume: The Struggle to Preserve the Life and Haunts of America's. ISBN   9780803261426 . Retrieved January 10, 2021.
  10. "The Gentleman's Magazine". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  11. "[Title page]". The Gentleman's Magazine, and Historical Chronicle. 46. 1776 via Google Books.
  12. Book IV, section 8.13.
  13. Cicero, Marcus Tullius. De Officiis. Book 1, Section 56: Project Gutenberg.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  14. Bowers, Q. David (2009). Whitman Encyclopedia of Colonial and Early American Coins. Atlanta: Whitman Publishing. p. 129.
  15. Breen, Walter (1998). Complete Encyclopedia of US and Colonial Coins. New York: FCI Press; Doubleday. p. 78.
  16. "Resource center faqs/coins accessed 2011-06-27". Treasury.gov. Retrieved March 3, 2012.
  17. "Massachusetts Coppers 1787-1788: Introduction". University of Notre Dame. Retrieved October 9, 2007.
  18. March, 1786 Petition to mint Massachusetts Coppers, source Google books. 1916. Retrieved March 3, 2012.
  19. "The Wokingham Borough Coat of Arms". Wokingham Borough. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  20. Oliveira, Diogo Cardoso; Alves, José (March 1, 2019). "A história de FC Porto e Benfica nos seus emblemas" [FC Porto and Benfica's histories in their emblems]. Público (in Portuguese). Archived from the original on February 19, 2021.
  21. "Símbolos: Emblema do SL Benfica" [Symbols: SL Benfica's emblem]. SL Benfica (in Portuguese). Archived from the original on January 4, 2024. Retrieved January 4, 2024.
  22. "I am an American". Ad Council/GSD&M. Retrieved January 3, 2013.