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What Does Semper Fi Mean to the Marine Corps?

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Every Marine knows what Semper Fidelis means, and it’s not just about loyalty to country or unit. It is a code of honor since adopted in 1883 by Colonel Charles McCawley, 8th Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Semper Fidelis is a Latin phrase meaning “always faithful” or “always loyal”. In other words, it means that a Marine’s duty never ceases and they are always prepared to fight America’s battles.

What Does Semper Fi Mean to Each Marine?

It means always faithful—always loyal to Country, Corps, self, and fellow Marines. Semper Fi also stands for courage in the face of adversity; sacrifice without regret; commitment to justice overseas and at home; modesty in victory and patience when faced with defeat.

This is a crucial aspect of Marine Corps life. If you are not faithful to the Marine Corps, you will find it difficult to survive.

Where Did Semper Fidelis Originate?

The phrase originated with the Roman Legionnaires who were always faithful to Rome. To them, Semper Fidelis meant “Always Faithful” even if it cost their lives. The Marines adopted this phrase in 1883 because they wanted to show that they were always faithful to the country and their fellow Marines, no matter what the situation may be.

Other Marine Corps Slogans

There were actually three mottos prior to Semper Fi, including:

  • Fortitudine (“with courage”) which was used prior to the War of 1812
  • Per Mare, Per Terram (“by sea, by land”, the motto of the British Royal Marines)
  • To The Shores of Tripoli (taken from the Marine Corps Hymn) which was used until 1843.

There were three mottos prior to Semper Fidelis including Fortitudine (meaning “with courage”) antedating the War of 1812, Per Mare, Per Terram (“by sea, by land”; presumably inherited from the British Royal Marines, who have that as a motto), and, up until 1843, there was also the Marines’ Hymn motto “To the Shores of Tripoli“. “Semper fidelis” signifies the dedication and loyalty that individual Marines have for ‘Corps and Country’, even after leaving service. Marines frequently shorten the motto to “Semper Fi” /ˌsɛmpər ˈfaɪ/.

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