What Is California’S State Motto?

California, nicknamed the Golden State, is known for its diversity, innovation, and progressive values. But what phrase encapsulates the essence of this iconic state? That would be California’s official state motto.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: California’s state motto is ‘Eureka’, meaning ‘I have found it’ in Greek. It was made the official motto in 1963 to reflect the pioneering spirit of the state.

In this in-depth piece, we’ll take a closer look at California’s state motto, its origins and history, how it came to represent California, and what meaning it holds for this dynamic state today. From the Gold Rush beginnings to modern interpretations, we’ll cover how ‘Eureka’ came to epitomize the California spirit.

The Literal Meaning and Origin

The state motto of California is “Eureka!” which translates to “I have found it” in Greek. The origin of this motto can be traced back to the Gold Rush era in the mid-19th century.

Reportedly exclaimed during Gold Rush

During the Gold Rush, thousands of people flocked to California in search of gold and fortune. It is said that the exclamation “Eureka!” was exclaimed by a prospector named James W. Marshall, upon discovering gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848.

This iconic moment marked the beginning of the Gold Rush and the influx of people hoping to strike it rich.

The motto “Eureka!” became synonymous with the spirit of exploration, discovery, and the pursuit of dreams that characterized the Gold Rush era. It represented the excitement and thrill of finding something valuable and realizing that one’s efforts had paid off.

Attributed to Greek mathematician Archimedes

The use of the word “Eureka!” as a motto can also be attributed to the Greek mathematician Archimedes. According to legend, Archimedes had a breakthrough while taking a bath and discovered the principle of buoyancy. Overwhelmed with excitement, he reportedly shouted “Eureka!”

which meant “I have found it!”

This association with Archimedes further adds to the significance of the motto, as it symbolizes the pursuit of knowledge, innovation, and the triumph of human intellect.

Today, the motto “Eureka!” continues to be a proud symbol of California’s rich history and pioneering spirit. It reminds us of the state’s past achievements and encourages us to embrace the spirit of exploration and discovery in our own lives.

Adoption as the State Motto

California’s state motto, “Eureka,” holds a significant place in the state’s history and identity. It represents the spirit of innovation and discovery that has been synonymous with California since its early days.

The motto, which means “I have found it” in Greek, has a fascinating origin story that dates back to the Gold Rush era.

First appeared on state seal in 1849

The phrase “Eureka” first appeared on California’s state seal in 1849. This was a pivotal time in the state’s history, as the Gold Rush brought thousands of fortune seekers to the region. It was during this time that the motto became associated with the idea of finding something valuable or striking it rich.

The inclusion of “Eureka” on the state seal was a nod to the discovery of gold and the subsequent impact it had on California’s growth and development. The Gold Rush not only brought an influx of people to the state but also contributed to the rapid expansion of cities and infrastructure.

Made official in 1963 legislation

While “Eureka” had been unofficially recognized as the state motto for many years, it wasn’t until 1963 that it was officially made so through legislation. The California State Legislature passed a bill designating “Eureka” as the official state motto, cementing its place in California’s history.

This legislation was a testament to the enduring significance of the motto and its representation of California’s pioneering spirit. It recognized the role that innovation and discovery played in shaping the state and its people.

Replaced previous motto ‘The Union is Dissolved’

Before “Eureka” became the official state motto, California had a different motto: “The Union is Dissolved.” This motto was adopted in 1851, reflecting the political tensions and debates surrounding the issue of slavery and states’ rights during that time.

However, as the nation moved towards healing and unity after the Civil War, the motto no longer resonated with the values and aspirations of California. It was replaced by “Eureka,” a motto that celebrated the state’s unique spirit of innovation and progress.

The adoption of “Eureka” as the state motto symbolized California’s commitment to growth, discovery, and the pursuit of new ideas. It serves as a reminder of the state’s rich history and its ongoing dedication to pushing boundaries and embracing change.

Significance and Interpretation

California’s state motto, “Eureka,” holds significant meaning and interpretation. It represents the pioneering spirit of explorers who sought new opportunities and discoveries during the California Gold Rush in the mid-1800s.

The motto is derived from the Greek word “heureka,” meaning “I have found it,” which perfectly encapsulates the excitement and joy felt by those who discovered gold in the state.

Represents pioneering spirit of explorers

The state motto, “Eureka,” is a symbolic representation of the pioneers who ventured into California in search of new opportunities. These brave explorers faced countless challenges and hardships as they traveled vast distances in pursuit of a better life.

The motto serves as a reminder of their courage and determination in the face of adversity.

Symbol of triumph through perseverance

“Eureka” also serves as a symbol of triumph through perseverance. The California Gold Rush attracted people from all walks of life, including miners, merchants, and entrepreneurs. Despite the difficulties they encountered, many individuals were able to find success and achieve their goals.

The state motto serves as a reminder that with dedication and perseverance, great achievements are possible.

Encapsulates ‘can do’ attitude

The motto “Eureka” encapsulates the “can do” attitude that has become synonymous with California. The state has a long history of innovation and a spirit of embracing challenges. From technological advancements to artistic achievements, California has consistently shown a willingness to take risks and push boundaries.

The motto serves as a constant reminder of the state’s optimistic and forward-thinking mindset.

Use and Placement on State Symbols

Appears on state seal and flag

California’s state motto, “Eureka,” meaning “I have found it,” holds significant prominence in the state’s symbols. It is prominently displayed on the state seal and flag. The state seal features a miner’s image along with a sailing ship and the motto “Eureka” inscribed below.

The flag of California, known as the Bear Flag, also showcases the state motto in a bold, eye-catching manner. The use of the motto on these state symbols serves as a constant reminder of the state’s rich history and the spirit of discovery.

Printed on official state documents

California’s state motto is not only reserved for state symbols but is also printed on official state documents. These documents include various certificates, licenses, and official correspondence issued by the state government.

The inclusion of the motto on these documents adds a sense of identity and pride to the bureaucratic processes, reminding individuals of the state’s heritage and the spirit of innovation that is deeply ingrained in California’s history.

Displayed at state buildings and parks

In addition to its presence on state symbols and official documents, California’s state motto is prominently displayed at state buildings and parks throughout the state. Visitors and residents alike can find the motto showcased on plaques, signs, and architectural elements in various government buildings and public spaces.

This serves as a constant visual reminder of the state’s values and aspirations, encouraging a sense of unity and shared purpose among Californians.

Cultural Legacy and Enduring Relevance

California’s state motto, “Eureka,” holds a cultural legacy that continues to resonate with the state’s residents and visitors alike. The motto, which means “I have found it” in Greek, reflects the spirit of exploration and discovery that has been at the heart of California’s history.

From the Gold Rush in the mid-1800s to the technological innovations of Silicon Valley, California has always been a place where people come to pursue their dreams and find new opportunities.

Still embodies California adventurism today

Even today, the motto “Eureka” still embodies the adventurism that California is known for. The state is home to breathtaking natural wonders such as Yosemite National Park and the iconic coastline of Big Sur.

From hiking and surfing to skiing and rock climbing, Californians embrace an active and adventurous lifestyle. The motto serves as a reminder to residents to continue exploring and pushing boundaries in all aspects of life.

An inspirational motto for residents

For residents of California, the state motto serves as an inspiration and a reminder of the opportunities that await them. Whether it’s pursuing a career in the thriving entertainment industry or starting a new business in the innovative tech sector, Californians are encouraged to seize the moment and strive for greatness.

The motto acts as a rallying cry, reminding residents that they have the power to shape their own destinies and make a difference in the world.

Recognizable representation of state identity

The motto “Eureka” has become a recognizable representation of California’s state identity. It is proudly displayed on the state seal, which features a miner holding a gold nugget and the words “Eureka” above him.

The motto can also be found on California’s flag and is often used in state marketing and branding efforts. It has become a symbol of the state’s rich history, its pioneering spirit, and its ongoing commitment to exploration and innovation.


Eureka – California’s enduring state motto – originated during the fervor of the Gold Rush but has taken on wider meaning for Californians over the years. Encapsulating the pioneering spirit, perseverance, and ‘can do’ attitude of the state, it serves as an inspirational cultural symbol and representation of California’s identity. Whether displayed on state seals or shouted as an exclamation of discovery and triumph, ‘Eureka’ remains a fitting motto for California’s trailblazing culture today.

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