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This article is written from an out-of-universe perspective.
Eddard Stark: "Look at me. You're a Stark of Winterfell. You know our words."
Arya Stark: "'Winter is Coming'."
— Lord Eddard Stark and his daughter Arya.[src]

Each of the noble houses of the Seven Kingdoms have their own official family motto, or "words". These usually take the form of boasts or threats, used as battle-cries, such as House Baratheon's words "Ours is the fury!", or House Tully's words "Family, Duty, Honor". House Stark is a major exception in that unlike most other houses, its words are not a boast or a threat but the ominous warning "Winter is coming".

Each noble house also has its own unique heraldry, such as the Stark direwolf or Lannister lion. While a house's heraldic symbol and motto are often associated, the words are usually not depicted directly in heraldry or on an army's banners. Rather, house words are usually shouted by the men carrying the banners as they charge into battle. A noble house's choice of heraldry and official motto often reflects the general character, philosophy, or political strategy that the family espouses.

A Tyrell lady holds up her embroidery, featuring the golden rose of the Tyrell sigil surmounting their words, "Growing Strong".

House words do not typically appear on a house's heraldry, in the books as well as the TV series. In the first three TV seasons, house words have only appeared written out exactly once, when a Tyrell lady displays her embroidery of the House Tyrell golden rose sigil, surmounting their motto "Growing Strong".[1]

None of the official house words which have appeared in the TV adaptation produced by HBO were changed from the original A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Not all of the house words established in the books have, however, been established within the TV continuity. It would be awkward to fit this into on-screen dialogue for every single noble house which appears. The words of each of the Great Houses, which control the constituent regions of the Seven Kingdoms, have been established in on-screen dialogue. There are well over a hundred major noble houses underneath them, however, not all of which have been established within the TV series.

A benefit is that the Histories & Lore narrated Blu-ray featurettes, as well as the HBO Viewer's Guide, have been quite thorough about stating what each house motto is, when possible. These ancillary materials are part of the official "TV series canon", and so far have always matched what a house's words were in the books, but casual viewers may have skipped over them.

House words for the TV series generally fall into three categories: those mentioned in on-screen dialogue, those mentioned in ancillary materials (Blu-ray featurettes and the HBO Viewer's Guide), and those known only from the books. On a few occasions, certain house words have not yet been revealed in the books (i.e. despite their prominence within the storyline, the words of House Frey and House Umber have not been revealed even by the end of the fifth novel).

The TV series has referred to them as both "words" and "motto" at various points, so both terms are correct usage. They tend to be called "words" more often, but Maester Luwin refers to the Lannister "official motto" in "The Wolf and the Lion".

House words which have appeared on-screen in the TV series proper

Great Houses

The Lannisters are an unusual case in that their unofficial motto is used far more often within the narrative of both the TV series and the books than their official motto. Their official motto, as mentioned in "Histories & Lore", is actually "Hear Me Roar!" - but this is hardly ever used, even within the books. It is usually brought up solely for characters to point out that it isn't as popular as their unofficial motto: "A Lannister always pays his debts". The unofficial motto is used on numerous occasions in the TV series. In "The Wolf and the Lion", Maester Luwin quizzes Bran on the heraldry and words of different noble houses. When asked to name the motto of House Lannister, Bran answers "A Lannister always pays his debts". Luwin points out that though this is a common saying, it is not their official motto. The official motto was given in the Season 1 Blu-ray set, but wasn't heard on-screen until the finale of Season 6, when Lannister soldiers are heard saying the words at Walder Frey's victory celebration following the retaking of Riverrun.[6]

  • House Lannister - "A Lannister always pays his debts" (unofficial, common saying)[2]
    • Female Lannisters of course adapt the unofficial motto to "A Lannister always pays her debts".[7]

Other houses

  • House Frey - We Stand Together
    • The Freys' motto is unknown even in the books, but in the Season 6 finale, when Walder Frey toasts the Lannister soldiers they cheer their official motto, "Hear me roar!", and then the Freys cheer "We Stand Together!" - given the context this seems to be presenting that this is the Frey motto (the first time a motto was revealed in the TV show before the books) - but it is unclear if this was just a "statement" given the context. Following right after this, in the Season 7 premiere "Dragonstone", the Freys toast each other at a feast by just saying "Stand Together!" - reinforcing that this is probably meant to be their motto, while at the same time introducing a little confusion about which is the official version. Apparently it was meant as a play on words for how their home castle the Twins is actually two castles on opposite sides of a river linked by a bridge, combined with the irony that the Freys are a fractious lot, with numerous internal rivalries.
  • House Hornwood - Righteous in Wrath[2]

Words confirmed from supplementary materials within the TV continuity

  • House Arryn - As High as Honor[8]
    • In reference to the Arryn's heavy focus on honor, and the location of their castle-seat, the Eyrie, atop high and very formidable defensive mountains.
  • House Targaryen - Fire and Blood[9]
    • In reference to the fire of the Targaryen dragons and that they forged the Seven Kingdoms into one unified realm through a bloody conquest. In the novels, it is explained that Aegon the Conqueror chose their sigil and words when he began his conquest of Westeros.
    • So far, the Targaryen words have been explicitly identified as such on-screen, but in Season 2's "The Old Gods and the New" Daenerys Targaryen warns the Spice King of Qarth that she will take what is hers "With fire and blood." TV-first viewers (who didn't watch the Season 1 Blu-ray animated featurettes) would have no way of knowing she was quoting her house words. In "The Winds of Winter", Varys greets Olenna Tyrell with with the words "fire and blood", as a means of clarifying Ellaria Sand's offer of "justice and vengeance". Olenna would naturally recognize the implication of the words instantly.
  • House Bolton - Our Blades are Sharp[10]
    • In reference to their sigil, a flayed man, and their infamy for flaying their enemies alive.
    • Like with House Lannister's preference for the usage of their unofficial motto of "A Lannister always pays his/her debts," over the official "Hear Me Roar!" House Bolton also has a similar situation. Although House Bolton's words are "Our Blades Are Sharp," the more common saying of the house, and used frequently in the TV adaptation, is "A naked man has few secrets; a flayed man, none."[11]
  • House Karstark - The Sun of Winter[12]
    • In reference to their sigil, a white sunburst on black.
  • House Tallhart - Proud and Free[13]
  • House Mormont - Here We Stand
    • Jorah Mormont does loosely quote this when he says "Yet here I stand", as he blocks Viserys from stealing his sister's dragon eggs in "A Golden Crown". TV-first viewers would have no way of knowing that his line was quoting his house words.

Words of houses present in the TV series, known only from the books

This list is not meant to be exhaustive of every house that might have appeared in the background of the TV series at any point, but a few of the more prominent houses from the TV series which either have major speaking roles or are prominently mentioned by name:

  • House Cerwyn - Honed and Ready
    • In reference to their sigil, a battle-axe.
  • House Mallister - Above the Rest
    • In reference to their sigil, an eagle.
  • House Stokeworth - Proud to be Faithful
  • House Tarly - First in Battle
    • In reference to House Tarly's reputation as the best warriors and military commanders in the Reach.
  • House Royce - We Remember
    • In reference to the fact that the Royces are one of the oldest families in the Vale, a holdout First Men family while the rest of the major houses of the Vale descend from the Andal invaders.
  • House Marbrand - Burning Bright
    • In reference to their sigil, a burning tree.

Houses whose words are unknown even from the books

House words invented in the TV continuity

Rarely, house words have been invented for the TV continuity (including spin-off media such as video games).

It is possible that house words might be introduced first in the TV series, though later confirmed in subsequent novels, i.e. if Season 6 mentions what the House Frey words are but this might only be confirmed in the sixth novel. This has not occurred yet, but if it does, an attempt will be made to confirm if the words provided in the TV series match the book continuity, and simply haven't been mentioned in them yet.

See also