words on the Great Seal of the United States of America, condensed by Charles Thompson, designer of the seal in its final form, from Latin Juppiter omnipotes, audacibus annue coeptis "All-powerful Jupiter favor (my) daring undertakings," line 625 of book IX of Virgil's "Aeneid." The words also appear in Virgil's "Georgics," book I, line 40: Da facilem cursam, atque audacibus annue coeptis "Give (me) an easy course, and favor (my) daring undertakings."
Thompson changed the imperative annue to annuit, the third person singular form of the same verb in either the present tense or the perfect tense. The motto also lacks a subject. The motto is often translated as "He (God) is favorable to our undertakings," but this is not the only possible translation.
Thomson wrote: "The pyramid signifies Strength and Duration: The Eye over it & Motto allude to the many signal interpositions of providence in favour of the American cause." The original design (by William Barton) showed the pyramid and the motto Deo Favente Perennis "God favoring through the years."
The Latin elements are the perfective of annuere "indicate approval, agree to, grant," literally "nod to (as a sign)" (from assimilated form of ad "to;" see ad-, + nuere "to nod;" see numinous) + perfect passive of coeptus, past participle of coepere "to begin, commence."
updated on September 22, 2022