Dum spiro spero

"Dum spiro spero" in a stained glass window at Beverly Unitarian Church in Chicago.

Dum spiro spero, which translates to "While I breathe, I hope"[1] in English, is a Latin phrase of indeterminate origin. It is the motto of various places and organisations, including the U.S. state of South Carolina.


The sense of dum spiro spero can be found in the work of Greek poet Theocritus (3rd Century BC), who wrote: "While there's life there’s hope, and only the dead have none."[2]

The sentiment seems to have become common by the time of Roman statesman Cicero (106 – 43 BC), who wrote Atticus: "As in the case of a sick man one says, 'While there is life there is hope' [dum anima est, spes esse], so, as long as Pompey was in Italy, I did not cease to hope."[3]

The phrase had begun appearing in its current form by at least the 1780s, as it is present on a representation of the seal of South Carolina printed in March 1785.[4] At some point, it also became the motto of the town of St Andrews,[5] Scotland, and is visible on heraldry around the town of from the mid-19th century onwards.[6][7]


As a motto:

As an inscription:

  • on the wall of Edzell Castle, and spelled out by the shrubs in the castle's walled garden
  • above the door of Nymans House, West Sussex, England
  • on medallions marking the Barbary Coast Trail in San Francisco, California[13]
  • on a stained glass window of Beverly Unitarian Church in Chicago
  • on the sign of the Divers' Arms pub in Herne Bay

Other uses:

  • A song called "Dum spiro spero" is the theme for the video game Clive Barker's Undying.[14]
  • Japanese Avant-Garde Metal band Dir en grey named their eighth full length album Dum Spiro Spero.[15]
  • In the TV series Spooks, S8E5, Lucas North has a tattoo Dum Spiro Spero across his shoulders.
  • Sean Shmelev, an israeli male Playboy model has the latin phrase Dum Spiro Spero tattooed on his arm

Family and individual use

Dum spiro spero is used as a motto by armigerous families including the Corbet baronets of Moreton Corbet (both creations), the Hoare baronets of Annabella, Co. Cork, and the Viscounts Dillon.[16] The Williamson Clan from Co Donegal, Ireland; and the Scottish Clan MacLennan. Individuals who used the motto include Charles I,[17] King of England; Sir James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak,[18] and the merchant seaman and privateer, later Royal Governor of the Bahama Islands, Woodes Rogers.[19]

See also


  1. ^ "dum spiro, spero". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved September 21, 2014.
  2. ^ Idyll 4, line 42; translation by A. S. F. Gowin Theocritus ([1950] 1952) vol. 1, p. 37.
  3. ^ Epistulae ad Atticum, Book 9, Letter 10, English (Evelyn Shirley Shuckburgh translation)], Latin
  4. ^ "South Carolina State House | South Carolina State Symbols". www.scstatehouse.gov. Retrieved 2021-11-28.
  5. ^ Porteous, Alexander (1906). The Town Council Seals of Scotland, Historical, Legendary and Heraldic. Edinburgh: Johnston. pp. 270–271.
  6. ^ Stuff, Good. "Town Hall And Library, South Street, St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife". britishlistedbuildings.co.uk. Retrieved 2021-11-28.
  7. ^ "Tour Scotland Photography St Andrews". Blogspot.
  8. ^ "Cothill House (@CothillHouse) | Twitter". twitter.com. Retrieved 2019-01-28.
  9. ^ 601skss
  10. ^ Nigel Barley (20 June 2013). White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke. Little, Brown Book Group. pp. 101–. ISBN 978-0-349-13985-2.
  11. ^ Lukas Straumann (21 October 2014). Money Logging: On the Trail of the Asian Timber Mafia. Schwabe AG. pp. 63–. ISBN 978-3-905252-69-9.
  12. ^ SCIWAY "South Carolina State Seal and South Carolina State Mottos". South Carolina Information Highway. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  13. ^ "Survival tips for life on the Barbary Coast". 14 December 2015.
  14. ^ "Clive Barker's Undying OST". Last FM.
  15. ^ "Dum Spiro Spero by Dir en Grey". Metacritic.
  16. ^ The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, Bernard Burke, Harrison & Sons, 1884, pp. 228, 286, 494
  17. ^ Flood, Alison (2018-07-05). "Charles I's 'message for the future' discovered in poetry book". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  18. ^ The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, Bernard Burke, Harrison & Sons, 1884, p. 129
  19. ^ The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down

External links

Media files used on this page

Author/Creator: Dan Polansky based on work currently attributed to Wikimedia Foundation but originally created by Smurrayinchester, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
A logo derived from File:WiktionaryEn.svg, a logo showing a 3 x 3 matrix of variously rotated tiles with a letter or character on each tile. The derivation consisted in removing the tiles that form the background of each of the shown characters. File:WiktionaryEn.svg is under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike, created by Smurrayinchester, and attributed to Wikimedia Foundation. This is the version without the wordmark.
Window at Beverly Unitarian Church showing motto "Dum Spiro Spero".jpg
Author/Creator: Jenright, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Part of a lovely stained glass window, with the head of a bird and a Latin motto.