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LINKS: Worlds Flags UN Flags flags terminology

Flags Terms: Vexillology & Dictionary

Vexillology is the study of the history, symbolism and usage of flags or, by extension, any interest in flags in general. The word comes from the Latin word vexillum (which refers to a kind of square flag which was carried by Roman cavalry) and the Greek suffix -logia ("study"). The first known usage of the word vexillology was in 1959. A person who studies flags is a vexillologist, one who designs flags is a vexillographer, and the art of flag-designing is called vexillography. One who is a hobbyist or general admirer of flags is a vexillophile.

flags anatomy and parts

FLAG ELEMENTS (parts of a flag)

  • Badge: A coat of arms or simple heraldic symbol.
  • Canton: Any quarter of a flag, but commonly means the upper hoist quarter, such as the field of stars in the flag of the United States or the Union Jack in the Australian Flag.
  • Charge: A figure or symbol appearing in the field of a flag.
  • Emblem: A device often used as a charge on a flag. It may be heraldic in origin or modern, for example the maple leaf on the Canadian Flag.
  • Field: The background of a flag; the color behind the charges.
  • Fimbriation: A narrow edging or border, often in white or gold, on a flag to separate two other colors. For example the white and gold lines of the South African Flag.
  • Finial: A decorative or protective cap atop the flagpole. Often shaped like a sphere, but can also be a shape with heraldic significance, such as a spear or an eagle. Sometimes referred to as a capper.
  • Fly: The half or edge of a flag farthest away from the flagpole. This term also sometimes refers to the horizontal length of a flag.
  • Fly end: The part of the flag that flaps in the wind and sometimes becomes frayed.
  • Halyard: A rope or cable used to raise and lower a flag on a flagpole.
  • Heading: A piece of loose fabric running along the hoist for attaching a flag to its rope.
  • Hoist: The half or edge of a flag nearest to the flagpole. This term also sometimes refers to the vertical dimension of a flag.
  • Length: The span of a flag along the side at right angles to the flagpole.
  • Truck: The cap at the top of a flagpole and may have holes to attach pulleys to raise and lower a flag.
  • Width or breadth: The span of a flag down the side parallel to the flagpole.


  • Banderole or bannerol: A small flag or streamer carried on the lance of a knight, or a long narrow flag flown from the mast-head of a ship.
  • Banner: Generically, a synonym for a flag of any kind, and in heraldry specifically, a square or rectangular flag whose design is identical to the shield of a coat of arms; also denominated a banner of arms.
  • Burgee: A distinguishing flag of a recreational boating organisation, which commonly has the shape of a pennant.
  • Civil ensign (merchant flag): A version of a national flag that is flown on civil ships to denote their nationality.
  • Civil flag: A version of a national flag that is flown on civil installations or craft.
  • Colour or color: The flag of a military unit.
  • Corner flag: A small flag flown at each of the corners of a football pitch or other sports field.
  • Courtesy flag or courtesy ensign: A flag that is flown on a visiting ship in foreign waters as a sign of respect for the foreign nation.
  • Ensign: The flag of any ship or military unit, or, generically, a synonym for any kind of flag. On ships, an ensign is normally flown at the stern.
  • Fanion: A small flag that the French military uses.
  • Gonfalon, gonfanon, or gonfalone: A heraldic flag that is suspended and pendent from a crossbar.
  • Guidon: A small flag that a military unit flies; in Scottish heraldry, a smaller version of the standard (see below).
  • Jack: A flag flown from a short jackstaff at the bow of a ship.
  • Pennon or pennant: A flag that is wider at the hoist than at the fly.
  • Pipe banner: A decorative flag for Scottish Highland bagpipes.
  • Prayer flag: A kind of flag that is flown along mountain ridges and peaks in the Himalayas in order to bless the surrounding land.
  • Rank flag or distinguishing flag: A flag that a superior naval officer flies on his flagship or headquarters.
  • Signal flag: A flag or pennant that communicates or signals information that is not heraldic.
  • Standard, Heraldic Standard: In heraldry, a long tapering flag that bears heraldic badges and the motto of the armiger; it may also refer to a military colour that cavalry units fly or a royal standard of a monarch or member of a royal family.
  • State flag or governmental flag: A version of a national flag that represents and may be restricted in use only to the national government and agencies thereof; the design of many state flags consists of the civil flag (see above) defaced with a coat of arms or other heraldic charge.
  • Vexilloid: A flag-like object that is used in a similar symbolic manner as a flag, but that differs from a conventional flag in some way.
  • Vexillum: A flag-like object that is suspended from a horizontal crossbar; the Ancient Roman army used it as its military standard.
  • War flag, military flag, or battle flag: A variant of a national flag that a nation's military forces use on land.
  • Windsock: A conical textile tube that is used to indicate the direction and strength of wind.


  • Border/bordure: A broad border used as a charge in a coat of arms, often as a mark of difference. Eg; The flag of Montenegro, Sri Lanka and Maldives.
  • Canton: A rectangular area, usually at the top hoist corner of a flag, occupying up to a quarter of the flag's area. The canton of a flag may be a flag in its own right. Eg, British ensigns have the Union Jack as their canton, as do their derivatives such as the national flags of Australia and New Zealand.
  • Quadrisection/Quartered: A flag divided into four equal sections.
  • Greek cross (couped cross): A flag with four arms of equal length.
  • Nordic/Scandinavian cross: A cross symbol in a rectangular field, with the center of the cross shifted towards the hoist. Eg; the flag of Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
  • Pale: A charge on a coat of arms (or flag), that takes the form of a band running vertically down the centre of the shield. Eg; the flag of Canada.
  • Fess: A charge on a coat of arms (or flag) that takes the form of a band running horizontally across the centre of the field. Eg; the flag of Austria.
  • Bend: A band or strap running from the upper right corner of the field to the lower left side. Eg; the flag of Tanzania.
  • Chevron: A triangle or V-shaped mark, often inverted. Eg; the flag of Palestine.
  • Pall: A Y-shaped charge, normally having its arms in the three corners of the shield. An example of a pall placed horizontally is the green portion of the South African national flag.
  • Saltire: A symbol in the form of a diagonal cross, like the shape of the letter X. it's also called Saint Andrew's Cross or the crux decussata.


  • Distress: Flying the flag upside-down,[note 1] or tying it into a wheft.[1]
  • Half-mast: A style of flag display where the flag is flown at least the width of the flag between the top of the flag and the top of the pole.
  • Hoist: The act or function of raising a flag, as on a rope.
  • Lower: The act or function of taking down a flag, as on a rope.