Scottish family mottos originated as battle cries in medieval times. "ABSCISSA VIRESCIT" belongs to the ancient Bysot's. (Bissett) It's a slogan we Bissett's can be proud of, capturing the spirit of our family, through to modern times.
"Abscissa" is the feminine version of "to be cut off or divided". "Virescit" is a verb, meaning "to grow green". Together, they make a declaration to our enemies and have since become a powerful and prophetic statement, particularly when you consider the conditions of the time it first originated. When England threatened to crush Scotland and cut them off, the Bissett's, who were fierce warriors, would not be held in bondage and were determined to flourish despite any effort to put them down. In other words,
"Though we be cut off (or hewn down), we will still grow green (or flourish)!"
This motto is supported by the family's Coat of Arms, which has the "Stump Of a Tree in Natural Color". Even though the tree has been chopped to a stump, it has not died, but continues to grow. New sprouts emerge from the roots.
Note the use of the feminine version of being cut off (defensive), rather than the masculine version (aggressive). The attitude is that "Yes we're tough, but we'll mind our business if you'll mind yours". This is also seen in other symbols on the Coat of Arms. For example, there's a silver bird without feet; Even if you cut our feet off, we'll just fly. There's a helmet; You can take our heads, but you'll never own what's in them. Symbols of fierce independent.
The prophetic part is that though we've been cut off from our past, we still flourish and like the silver bird without feet we continue to fly and battle on to connect ourselves with our roots. Our family does a great deal of family history research and are part of a world wide Bissett discussion group on the internet.
Now that's the basic translation of the words. You may have something you'd like to say about it. What I've suggested here is just my interpretation. From your input, maybe we can formulate an official English version of the phrase, unless we find that one's been done already.
Thanks goes to Professor Pavlo Alverez and Kelly MacFarlane, of the University of Alberta, Romance Languages, History and Classics, who helped with translating "Abscissa Virescit". They concur on the general meaning of the phrases and agree on the reference to the tree as a metaphor for the family. Kelly says the phrase suggests that no matter what threatens the family, "you can try to crush us, separate us, or hew us down", we will survive and flourish.
Now, here's a remarkable observation by Tom Bissett of Baltimore:
"I'd like to note that aside from the question of its origins, I find it interesting that the motto contains the name Bisset alphabetically.
With simple editing, it spells Bisset without having to rearrange any letters. And, if you say the motto quickly, or with a little scottish murmur as my relatives in Scotland sometimes do in a normal conversation, you can even make the motto sound like Bisset."