Common Flag Terminology

Badge: A coat of arms or simple heraldic symbol is sometimes called a badge.

Base or Field: the background or main color of the flag.

Banner: A flag-like cloth draped, or stretched, between two anchor points

Bicolor: A flag that has two colors, usually of equal size.

Bordering: A different-colored edge around the outside of the flag, or part of a flag.

Burgee: The flag of a boating club, usually in the shape of a tapered swallowtail.

Canton: The upper left (hoist) corner of a flag, separate from the base. On U.S. or British Commonwealth flags the 'canton' is also called the 'union'.

Charge: An emblem, object, device, or design superimposed on the flag's base.

Civil flag: The version of the country's national flag, for use by private citizens.

Defacing: Changing a flag by adding something to it, especially concerning colonial flags. Note: that the term 'defacing' doesn't mean 'vandalizing' when used in reference to flags.

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Differencing: Referring to the design of one flag as a variation of another flag - either by changing a color, or adding or removing a charge, etc. For example, the flag of Italy was 'differenced' from that of France by changing the blue stripe to green.

Ensign: A flag used by ships at sea. Nations may have civil, state, and war 'ensigns'.

Field: A background or predominant color.

Fimbriation: A thin stripe placed around a field or charge, usually of a different color.

Finial: The ornament on the end of a flagstaff or flagpole.

Fly: The edge or end of a flag furthest away from the pole.

Halyard: A rope used to raise a flag.

Hoist: The edge or end of a flag nearest the pole. Flags are usually hoisted on the left side, except in the case of some Arab flags.

Honor point: The place on a flag where the color, or charge, with the greatest, or highest, symbolism is placed - almost always the upper left hand side.

House flag: A corporate or personal flag; a flag which does not signify nationality or citizenship.

Jack: A small flag designating nationality, flown from the bow of a naval vessel while in port.

Length: The length of a flag, measured straight from hoist to fly (or from left to right).

Mast or pole: A device used to fly a flag.

Pennant: (or pennon), any triangular or roughly triangular flag.

Proportion: (or ratio), the relationship of a flag's width to its length, for example the Russian flag has a proportion of 1:2.

Saint Andrew's cross: A cross stretching from corner to corner of a flag, forming an 'X', also called a 'saltire'.

Saint George's Cross: A cross with arms vertical and horizontal, forming a '+', stretching out to the edges of the flag.

Saltire: See definition for Saint Andrew's Cross.

Scandinavian cross: A Saint George's Cross placed off-centered, towards the hoist. Seen on Scandinavian and Nordic flags.

State flag: The version of the national flag for use by a country's government.

Streamer: A long, narrow flag.

Swallowtail: A flag that comes to two or three points at the fly end.

Triband: A flag with three stripes - arranged either horizontally or vertically.

Tricolor: A triband of three different colors. Many tribands are more properly termed tricolors. The flag of France is often called "Le Tricolore".

Vexilloid: A rigid sign carried on a pole, especially those used by ancient Roman legions as unit identifiers; the forerunners of modern flags.

Vexillogram: A picture or design specification for a flag.

Vexillographer: A person who designs flags.

Vexillology: The academic study of flags.

Vexillophile: A flag collector or flag enthusiast.

War Flag: A version of a country's national flag for use by their armed forces.

Wearing: A synonym for 'flying', when applied to the ensign of a ship at sea.

Width: The height of a flag along the hoist.

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