Translating “Scientiae Cedit Mare," Latin Motto of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy
The Coast Guard Academy adopted a Latin motto separate from the Coast Guard itself. “Scientiae" is a form of the Latin word “scientia" meaning “knowledge," “acquaintance," or “skill." As a first declension noun, scientiae’s –ae ending indicates that the word may be in the genitive singular, dative singular, or nominative plural case. More information is needed to make this determination.
Cedit is the third-person singular present tense active indicative form of the word cedo, a Latin word meaning to “go," or “proceed." We know now that “scientiae is not in the nominative plural because the verb “cedit" is singular. Still more information is needed to know of “scientiae" is either genitive or dative singular case.
Mare is the nominative singular form of a word meaning “sea." It is related to the English word “marine." As a nominative singular word, we now know that “sea" is the subject of the verb “cedit." So far we have a partial translation of the motto as “The Sea Yields."
Seeing the partial translation above, it makes sense that what should follow is an indirect object to indicate to what or whom the sea yields. “Cedo" has a special relationship with the word “scientiae." By nature of its meaning, “cedo" is often followed by an indirect object in the dative case. We now know that “scientiae" is in the dative singular rather than the genitive singular case.
Take all together, the motto “Scientiae Cedit Mare" can be appropriately translated into English as “The Sea Yields to Knowledge." Students of Latin may have noticed the strange word order of this motto. English normally follows the subject-verb-direct object-indirect object word order paradigm. Latin normally follows a subject-indirect object-direct object-verb paradigm. This is because the Romans saw the verb as the most important word in a sentence, a kind of punch line.
By rearranging the words in its motto, the Coast Guard Academy is likely placing emphasis on the word “mare," perhaps as a sign of respect for the power and majesty of the sea. Consequently, ignoring proper English word order, the motto is more appropriately translated as “To Knowledge Yields the Sea." Notice the slightly different connotation given the motto when it is literally translated into English from its original Latin.