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What Is the State Motto of Maine?

Maine's state motto, "Dirigo," which translates to "I Lead," reflects its pioneering spirit and history of trailblazing. This motto encapsulates the essence of Maine's character, from its rugged landscapes to its resilient people. How does this guiding principle shape the life and culture of Mainers today? Join us as we explore the impact of these two powerful words on the Pine Tree State.
Esther Ejim
Esther Ejim

The state motto of Maine is simply “Dirigo,” meaning “I Guide” or “I Direct.” Maine is one of only 15 states within the United States to officially adopt a motto. Other states have unofficial mottos, meaning that their mottos were not officially ratified by the state's legislature. Maine's state motto was officially adopted during the inaugural session of the State of Maine held between May 21 to June 28 in 1820. One of the interesting features of the state motto of Maine is the fact that it is not only adopted as an element of the state seal, it is also fully integrated by a depiction with a symbolic meaning.

The state seal was also adopted in 1820 and has an image of two men on either side of a peaceful scene depicted on a shield. The scene is that of a moose lying in a field with a pine tree directly behind it, along with images of water and woods. The man on the left is a farmer holding a scythe, while the one on the right is a sailor resting on an anchor.

The landlocked salmon is the state fish of Maine.
The landlocked salmon is the state fish of Maine.

On top of the shield is a banner bearing an inscription of the state motto of Maine — “Dirigo.” On top of the motto, there is an image of a polar star. The polar star has always been a guide for mariners while conducting their ships in the oceans. In the same way, the star symbolically represents the state of Maine, which serves as a guide for its citizens. This is the reason why the state motto of Maine is “I guide.”

The state seal of Maine displays a moose, which is also the state animal.
The state seal of Maine displays a moose, which is also the state animal.

Maine is also one of the states in the United States to incorporate its seal into its flag. The flag of the state of Maine is a simple blue background with the state seal in the center. This flag is different from the original flag that was used between 1901 and 1909. The old flag had the image of a lone pine tree with a star above it. The new flag was approved for official use by the Maine Legislature on February 23, 1909.

Apart from the state motto of Maine, other official state symbols include the black-capped chickadee, which is the official state bird, the Maine coon cat, which is the official state cat, and the wild blueberry, which is the official state berry. The official state herb of Maine is the wintergreen, and the state fish is the landlocked salmon. The state tree is the eastern white pine, while the state insect is the honeybee.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the state motto of Maine?

The state motto of Maine is "Dirigo," which is a Latin term that translates to "I lead" or "I direct." This motto reflects Maine's history and aspirations, symbolizing guidance, leadership, and the pioneering spirit of its people. It was adopted in 1820 when Maine became the 23rd state of the United States.

When was Maine's state motto adopted, and why was "Dirigo" chosen?

Maine's state motto, "Dirigo," was adopted in 1820, the same year Maine achieved statehood. The motto was chosen to represent Maine's role as a leader among states, particularly because it was once the easternmost state and often the first to see the sunrise in the United States. This symbolism of leading the nation into each new day resonated with the state's values and aspirations.

How is the state motto of Maine used today?

The state motto of Maine, "Dirigo," is prominently featured on the state seal and flag, serving as a constant reminder of Maine's leadership and independent spirit. It also appears on state documents and is referenced in various government and cultural contexts, reinforcing the state's identity and heritage.

Are there any historical landmarks in Maine that feature the state motto?

Yes, there are several historical landmarks in Maine where the state motto "Dirigo" can be seen. The Maine State House, for example, prominently displays the state seal, which includes the motto. Additionally, various monuments and public buildings throughout the state may feature the motto as an emblem of Maine's proud history and leadership.

What other symbols are associated with Maine's state motto?

Besides the motto "Dirigo," Maine's state seal and flag also include other symbols associated with the motto's theme of leadership and guidance. The seal features a North Star, which represents the state's guiding role, and a farmer and seaman that symbolize Maine's agricultural and maritime heritage. These elements, together with the motto, encapsulate Maine's identity and values.

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Discussion Comments

jcraig

I have a question in regards to why there are so few state mottoes. I know that Maine is only one of fifteen states in the Union to have an official state motto, but why is this the case?

I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that Maine picked their official state motto early on in their history in 1820.

I wonder if states that have an official state motto all picked theirs early on in American history, as it may have been a trend at the time, or if it could be possible that since Maine picked theirs when they became a state they merely got it out of the way, while other states have simply not got around to picking their state motto over the years?

cardsfan27

@Izzy78 -I totally agree. The purpose of a state flag, seal, or motto is to simply make the state unique, recognizable, and give some idea of the state's history and culture.

Maine is unique in this regard because they have a motto. Less than one third of the states in the Union have a motto, so to simply have one to begin with makes them unique.

Also, since the motto is incorporated on both the flag and seal, which are the same symbol, the motto is well known and allows the people of the state a singular symbol and battle cry to stand behind and cal themselves proud members of the state.

This should be the goal of any state sponsored enterprise like this and I feel like Maine does it very well when compared to other states.

Izzy78

@TreeMan - I respect your opinion and there are definitely plenty of state that are not creative in their flags and seals, but I happen to like Maine's.

I understand that using the same design on their flag and seal may seem a bit lazy, but it is an easily recognized symbol in the state and this adds uniqueness in itself.

Also, the state motto being incorporated on both allows for even more uniqueness to shine, as Maine is only one of 15 state's to even have a state motto, and even less have the same symbol on both their seal and flag.

To me this makes Maine unique from other states and allows for them to be creative without having to do anything fancy.

TreeMan

I have to be totally honest when I say that I feel like many of the state sponsored things for the state of Maine are very unimaginative and un-creative.

One would think that a state would be able to pick something for their flag, seal, and motto, that are all different in order to show a bit of creativity and uniqueness, but that apparently is not the case.

I know that there are several states like Maine that are un-creative in ventures, such as this, but to me Maine is worse because the motto is used on the flag and seal and the flag itself is the same image as the seal.

I do not understand why they did not simply commission another person or even the same person to create another design and at least add a bit of unique qualities to the state.

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    • The landlocked salmon is the state fish of Maine.
      By: Witold Krasowski
      The landlocked salmon is the state fish of Maine.
    • The state seal of Maine displays a moose, which is also the state animal.
      By: wildnerdpix
      The state seal of Maine displays a moose, which is also the state animal.