The Great Seal of the United States

The Great Seal of the United States

            Congress appointed a committee on July the fourth, 1776 to design an official seal for the nation.  Six years later, still without a seal, Charles Thompson, the secretary of Congress, took into consideration the designs from over the years.  Blending them together, he presented the Seal to Congress, and on June 20, 1782 the Great Seal of the United States had been determined. (Great Seal of the U.S. 2).  Many people do not know of the hidden meaning of the Latin phrases and symbology on the Great Seal.  The Latin phrases, the obverse of the Great Seal, and the reverse of the Great Seal have hidden in them, rather in symbols or in a dead language, the beliefs that started this great country. (DeGezelle 6).

Novus Ordo Seclorum in Latin means “New Order of the Ages.” (Novus Ordo Seclorum 1).  “It is often mistranslated as ‘New World Order,’ but the Latin for that phrase would be Novus Ordo Mundi.” (Novus… 1).  The phrase comes from the fourth Eclogue of Virgil that reads, “The last prophecy has come to the Cumaean Sibyl; a brand new great order of the ages is born; for now the Virgin and age of Saturn have returned; now a new child has been sent from the Heavens.” (Novus… 1).  The phrase was added on the Great Seal to “claim ‘the beginning of the new American Era’ as of the date the Declaration of Independence was signed.” (Novus…1).  The phrase is located below the pyramid on the reverse of the Great Seal.  The phrase “Annuit Coeptis is Latin for ‘He [God] has favored our undertaking.” (One-Dollar Bill 4).  The phrase is located above the pyramid on the reverse of the Great Seal.  The Great Seal also assimilates a small amount of the Roman numeral system.  “On the base of the pyramid is the Roman numerals MDCCLXXVI, which is 1776, the year America claimed independence.” (One-Dollar Bill 4).  The eagle’s beak holds a banner saying “E Pluribus Unum,” which is Latin for “Out of many, one.” (Great Seal of the U.S. 1).

“The main figure on the obverse of the seal is a Bald Eagle with its wings outstretched (‘displayed,’ in heraldic terms).” (Great Seal of the U.S. 1).  The eagle holds something in each of its talons.  “The eagle’s left talon holds thirteen arrows symbolic of the thirteen colonies and that the U.S. will fight for its freedom.  The right talon is grasping an olive branch with thirteen leaves and thirteen olives representing peace.” (Great Seal of the U.S. 1).  The eagle stands for strength.  Not only does the eagle represent America’s military might but also that the United States seeks peace.  “The eagle is gazing at the olive branch, preferring peace.” (Great Seal of the U.S. 1).  The eagle also has a shield covering its front side.  The shield also stands for defense.  “The eagle’s shield has thirteen stripes referring to the original thirteen colonies. (Johnson 19).  Suspended above the eagle’s head is a glory.  “A blue field with thirteen stars is hanging above the eagle.  The thirteen stars outline the Star of David.” (Great Seal of the U.S. 1).

“The reverse of the one dollar bill has an ornate design that incorporates the Great Seal of the United States, and it is of noted interest to historians and numerologists for the symbols contained there in.” (U.S. One Dollar Bill 4).  The reverse contains two symbols that have been debated over for years.  The pyramid and the all-seeing eye are debated over because people do not know where the designers of the Great Seal got the symbols. “The pyramid is left uncompleted suggests the U.S. is not yet complete.” (U.S. One Dollar Bill 4).  “The pyramid has thirteen layers of stone representing the first 13 colonies.” (Great Seal of the U.S. 2).  “Where the top of the pyramid should be, the so called Eye of Providence watches over it.” (Great Seal of the U.S. 2).  Many people are confused about the origins of the eye which is consider the Eye of God keeping watch over the construction of the United States.  “The eye above the pyramid is similar to one of the symbols of the Free Masons.” (U.S. One Dollar Bill 4).  Even through “the reverse is considered to have Masonic roots, the all-seeing eye is not a Masonic symbol.  No Masonic ideas were accepted for the Seal. (Great Seal of the U.S. 2).

The Great Seal does indeed have significant meaning in the symbols and phrases thereof.  The Latin phrases, the powerful Bald Eagle, the pyramid, and the Eye of Providence all contain hidden meaning and symbology.  Consider this; “The number 13, symbolizing the thirteen original colonies, shows up numerous times:

¨        Thirteen stars above the Eagle

¨        Thirteen steps in the Pyramid

¨        Thirteen letters in Annuit  Coeptis

¨        Thirteen letters in E Pluribus Unum

¨        Thirteen vertical stripes on the shield

¨        Thirteen horizontal strips at the top of the shield

¨        Thirteen leaves on the olive branch

¨        Thirteen olives

¨        Thirteen arrows.” (U.S. One Dollar Bill 5).



The creators of the Great Seal were very skillful in the way they hid the meaning.   “The Great Seal was carefully designed by the founding fathers to symbolize the United States – to the world and to the future. It is America’s symbolic mission statement, created by the people who gave us our freedom.” (Classsbrain 1).

Works Cited

Classbrain. The Great Seal of the United States. 2006. 24 Oct. 2006.

DeGezelle, Terri. The Great Seal of the United States. Mankato, Minnesota: Capstone

Press, 2004.

Johnson, Linda. Your National Symbols. Brookfield, Connecticut: The Millbrook Press,


Wikipedia. Great Seal of the U.S. 2006. 24 Oct. 2006. _States.

Wikipedia. Novus Ordo Seclorum. 2006. 24 Oct. 2006.

Wikipedia. United States One Dollar Bill. 2006. 24 Oct. 2006.­_one_dollar_bill.



One thought on “The Great Seal of the United States

  1. Observation: “The Great Seal of The United States of America” …..Should the “American Eagle” not be flying above the Thirteen Colonies, rather than (seemingly) landing or beginning its flight? …. Beginning its flight from where?; or, beginning its flight, from where?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s