North Carolina flag

North Carolina State Motto

"Esse Quam Videri"

The North Carolina state motto is a Latin motto which in English means "To be, rather than to seem". 

The Latin motto originates from a section in Cicero's "On Friendship" (De Amicitia, chapter 26). The whole phrase is: "Virtute enim ipsa non tam multi praediti esse quam videri volunt."

The North Carolina motto was adopted in 1893 which is rather late. In fact, North Carolina was the only state out of 13 states at that point that did not have a state motto.

In this way North Carolina did not follow many other states' examples of using the declaration of independence to lift up the national spirit and create a patriotic North Carolina motto.

North Carolina State Nicknames

Whereas there is only one North Carolina state motto, there exist a number of state nicknames for Carolina:

"The Old North State"
Back in 1710 Carolina was divided into two states: the southern part, South Carolina and the older, northern part, North Carolina. This North Carolina state nickname obviously refers back to the northern section.

The North Carolina nickname "The Old North State" is also the title of the official state song which was adopted in 1927.

"The Tarheel State"
When North Carolina was still a young state, tar (a sticky mixture of wood, coal, and peat) was one of the state's greatest industrial products.

There are two different legends that lay claim to the origin of this North Carolina nickname - one common theme in the legends is the Civil War:

  1. In John S. Farmer’s work "Americanisms – Old and New" (1889) he writes about a battle incident involving a brigade of North Carolina soldiers that didn’t manage to hold their position against the Mississippians.

    The Mississippians consequently mocked the North Carolinian saying that perhaps they forgot to tar their heals that morning: meaning, if they had done that they would have better ‘stuck’ with their position.

  2.  In one of Walter Clark's Histories there is a mention of a harsh battle in Virginia where North Carolina's supporting column was driven from the field but in spite of this they successfully fought it out alone.

In the subsequent exchange of compliments the North Carolinians were greeted with this question from the passing Virginian derelict regiment: "Any more tar down in the Old North State, boys?" Quickly they replied: "No, not a bit; old Jeff's bought it all up." "Is that so; what is he going to do with it?" was the question back "he is going to put it on your heels to make you stick better in the next fight."

"The Turpentine State"
Along with tar and pitch, turpentine from the many pine forest was one of North Carolina’s main products.

"The Land of the Sky"
This North Carolina nickname comes from Frances Fisher Tieran’s (pseudonym Christian Reid) book “The Land of the Sky” from 1876 with references to the Great Smokey Mountains and the Blue Ridge.

North Carolina nickname: The Land of the Sky

North Carolina State Slogans

Whereas the North Carolina state motto intends to describe patriotic values important to North Carolina - North Carolina state motto: "To be, rather than to seem" - North Carolina state slogans focus especially on attracting tourists, and as you will see, some slogans more serious in nature than others:

"First in Flight"
North Carolina and Ohio played a significant, but contestant role in the history of flight. The Wright brothers built their design in Ohio and flew their first flight in North Carolina.

"North Carolina: Tobacco is a Vegetable"

"I'm not Gay, I'm Just From North Carolina"

"North Carolina, A Hard Habit to Break"

"North Carolina: We're Northier than South Carolina"

Some of these North Carolina funny state slogans may be bought on t-shirts and the like.

USA map with North Carolina highlighted