Put together two open books with a beaver at the base, the Royal and Imperial Crown, and an oak tree at the top, and you’ll have the University of Toronto’s coat of arms – designed in 1857 by Daniel Wilson, who later became U of T president. The tree – originally a maple, but later changed to an oak for unknown reasons – reflects the university’s motto, “Velut arbor ævo.”
The Latin phrase is translated as “may it grow as a tree through the ages” in a 1935 U of T Monthly article. The words in the motto are an excerpt from Horace’s Odes: “crescit occulto velut arbor ævo fama Marcelli,” meaning “the fame of [Roman military leader] Marcellus grows like a tree over time unseen.”
The exact translation is open, but another rendition is “as a tree with the passage of time” – and the image of evolving and growing stronger over the years is a fitting metaphor for U of T students themselves.