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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Great seal of the state of North Carolina

Seal, State

by Wiley J. Williams, 2006

The design of North Carolina's state seal, officially called the Great Seal of the State of North Carolina, was standardized by the General Assembly in 1971 and modified in 1983 after many variations. The official seal is a circle 2¼ inches in diameter that features the robe-covered figures of "Liberty" and "Plenty" in its center. Liberty is standing and holding a capped pole in her left hand, and in her right hand is a scroll on which is written the word "Constitution." Plenty is seated with her right arm extended, holding three heads of grain in her right hand and the end of an overflowing cornucopia in her left hand. In the background are depictions of mountains and a three-masted ship floating on the ocean. The dates "May 20, 1775" (the date of the so-called Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence) and "April 12, 1776" (the date of the Halifax Resolves) appear at the top and bottom, respectively, of the center part of the seal. Around the outside border of the seal are the phrases "The Great Seal of the State of North Carolina" and Esse Quam Videri, the state motto, meaning "to be rather than to seem."

Photograph of Gov. Kerr Scott passing the Great Seal of NC to Gov. William Umstead, January 1953.  Item H.1966.109.14 from the North Carolina Museum of History. Used courtesy of the Department of Cultural Resources.


J. Bryan Grimes, The History of the Great Seal of the State of North Carolina (rev. ed., 1974).

Additional information:

Grimes, J. Bryan. 1909. Great seal of the state of North Carolina: 1666-1909. North Carolina Historical Commission. Online at:,398289.

"State seal and motto." North Carolina General Assembly. Online at:

Image credit:

"State seal and motto." North Carolina General Assembly. Online at (accessed September 25, 2014).

"Photograph [Gov. Scott passing the Great Seal of NC to Gov. Umstead]," Accession #: H.1966.109.14. 1953. North Carolina Museum of History. (accessed September 25, 2014).




What do the women mean?



The two female symbolic figures in the state seal are "Liberty" and "Plenty".  Liberty is on the left, holding the Constitution, which is the founding document of our government.  Plenty is on the left, holding stalks of wheat and a cornucopia. You might read the figure of Liberty as showing that the Constitution is the document that our government is founded upon and which protects freedom and liberty.  The figure of Plenty symbolizes the abundance promised by freedom and liberty.

I hope this helps!

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library


Where can the state motto be found at?


Hi Aniya. Thanks for visiting the NCpedia website and taking time to share your question about the state motto. The state motto is “Esse Quam Videri” which means “To be rather than to seem” in English. You can find the state motto on the state seal, monuments, plaques, etc.


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it says governor kerr scott lol


In the picture of Governor's Scott and Umstead, the correct name should be Kerr Scott and not Bott Scott.


What a strange typo! Thank you for letting us know--I have made the correction.

Mike Millner, NC Government & Heritage Library

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