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Dictionary of Vexillology: G (Gaff - Gyronny)

Last modified: 2006-09-30 by phil nelson
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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A spar rigged at an upward angle from the upper part of a mast or pole, and equipped with a halyard at its highest point from which an ensign is flown when at the peak. A gaff may be fitted to the mizzenmast (or other masts dependent upon the rig) of a sailing ship, or from the mast of a warship (when it will sometimes carry a command flag), or from a mast (or stayed mast) ashore (see also ‘fore’, ‘halyard’, ‘mast’, ‘mizzen’, ‘outrigger pole’, ‘peak’ and ‘stayed mast’).

A medieval term, now obsolete, for the carriage upon which a standard was fixed – a carrocerum (see also ‘standard 6)’ and ‘vexilloid’).

Please note that in the early-middle ages, standards were sometimes (for reasons which are now unclear) transported into battle and displayed whilst mounted on some form of wheeled conveyance.

A bar running at right angles from the staff from which the flag is partially suspended.

Please note, however, that use of the term with this meaning is given by only one source, and that such use is otherwise unsupported.

1) In heraldry, a term for a closed or almost closed ring consisting of intertwined leaves, or of leaves and flowers – a chaplet (see also ‘wreath 1)’). 2) On flags as above, but the term is also used to describe an open topped wreath composed of leaves, or of leaves and/or flowers, that does not exceed two-thirds the depth of the object surrounded (for example that on the flag of Parana, Brazil) – or sometimes considerably less – but see ‘wreath 1’.

From left: Flag of Parana, Brazil (fotw); A Garland in Heraldry According to English Heraldic Practice (Parker)

Please note with regard to 1), that the English heraldic requirement of only four flowers per garland is not generally observed in flags.

In US usage, the largest of the three standard sizes of national flag flown at army posts - 20 x 38 feet or 6.1 x 10.9m (see also ‘post flag 1)’, ‘storm flag’ and ‘war flag’).

Please note that the use of standard sizes of flag at army posts is by no means limited to the US (although the names may differ), and that the largest size is the one displayed on days of national celebration and/or service significance, or as otherwise regulated (see also ‘ceremonial ensign’, ‘holiday colours’ and ‘Sunday ensign’).

See 'safe conduct flag 1)'.

A medieval term, now obsolete, used to describe a small (possibly swallow tailed) flag (see also ‘pennant’ and ‘pennon 2’).

Please note that there is no proven connection between these terms and ‘guidon’, but that the similarity cannot be ignored.

That proportion, first recorded by classical Greek sources, which is considered particularly pleasing to the human eye; it is the ratio of two values where the relationship of the smaller (A) to the larger (B) is the same as that of the larger to the total, and has the value of (in round figures) 0.618 (with the reciprocal being 1:1618). It is most usually seen on flags as proportions of either 5:8 or 3:5 - the divine, golden or magic ratio, or golden section.

[graphic of golden mean]

Please note from the illustration that ratio a:b is the same as b: a+b, with the exact value being [graphic of equation] , or 0.6180339887…, however, it is suggested that a mathematical reference work be consulted if further or more complete details are required.

See ‘golden mean’ above.

1) A usually long (sometimes elaborate) flag designed to be hung vertically from a cross bar, often having a shaped bottom edge or terminating in tails and characteristic of Italy and of religious associations in Western Europe - where it might also be called a religious banner (see also ‘banner 3)’.
2) A flag that is designed to be attached both along its hoist to the staff, and along its top to a side-mounted cross-bar (see also ‘framed flag’).

Gonfalon of Asciano Tuscany, Italy (fotw)

Please note – not to be confused with a gonfanon or with the hanging flag of German speaking and Central European countries (see also ‘hanging flag’ and ‘gonfanon’).

The bearer of a gonfalon or standard (see also ‘standard bearer’).

A term, now largely (if not wholly) obsolete, for the - often hereditary - honorary office of gonfalonier (standard or flag bearer) to a monarch (see also ‘archivexillifer’).
A war flag of pre-heraldic Europe, often tapered from hoist to fly, generally attached to a lance and ending in from two to five squared, rounded or triangular tails. Not to be confused with the later ‘gonfalon’ (see also ‘double-tailed descate’, ‘lanceolate’, ‘oriflamme’, ‘pallia’, ‘pre-heraldic’, ‘multi-tailed descate’, ‘swallow-tailed(ed)’, ‘swallowtail and tongue’ and ‘triple-tailed descate’).

Gonfanon of Eustache III of Auvergne c1100 (CS)

A medieval term, now obsolete, for a ‘standard bearer’.

See under ‘ensign’.

See ‘state flag 1)’.

See ‘continental colors’.

In largely (but not exclusively) US usage, a small national flag (affixed to a short staff) which, on specified memorial occasions, is implanted on the graves at military cemeteries.

The term, now obsolete, for a banner showing all the quarterings of a deceased person’s coat of arms for use at that person’s funeral (see also ‘badge banner’, ‘banner 1)’, ‘bannerole’, ‘coat of arms 2)’, ‘grumphion’, ‘quartering’ and ‘livery banner’).

A term, now obsolete, for the Scottish heraldic standard as flown from a fixed staff, and there are indications that it was the largest of three sizes (see also ‘battle standard’, ‘standard 5)’, and ‘pageant standard’).

1) A cross of any colour whose arms are of equal length, and which extends to the edges of a flag, panel or canton.
2) A cross of any colour whose arms are of equal length, but which does not extend to the edges of a flag, panel or canton – a cross couped (see also ‘couped’).

[Greek cross flags]
From left: Naval Jack, Greece (CS)

[Greek cross flags]
National Flag of Switzerland (CS)

1) A hole or eyelet, reinforced by stitching or an inserted metal ring, usually found at both ends of the heading on the hoist of a flag, through which clips, attached to the halyard pass (see also ‘Appendix I’).
2) In naval heraldry the rope decoration that often surrounds a ship’s badge - sometimes incorrectly referred to as a ship’s crest (see also ‘badge 3)’).

See ‘field’.

See ‘command pennant’.

A Scottish term, now obsolete, for a small funeral flag bearing a death’s head.

See ‘Appendix V’.

In particularly (but not exclusively) US usage, a flag which symbolizes the office of governor.

In largely (but not exclusively) US yachting usage, a flag displayed to indicate that a guest is aboard but that the owner is not.

1) In US and some other military usage, a small, generally swallow-tailed flag used by army formations below battalion level - company, battery, troop, platoon, detachment – and at group level in the air force (but see also ‘fanion 2)’ and ‘swallow tail(ed)’).
2) In UK and some other military usage, the swallow-tailed flag (sometimes double-tailed descate or descate) that is the cavalry equivalent of an infantry regimental colour, and still displayed on fighting vehicles by their successors (see also ‘colour 2)’, ‘cornet’, ‘descate’, ‘double-tailed descate’ and ‘hussar cut’).
3) A Scottish flag 2.40m long, tapering to a rounded (or lanceolate) fly, it has a body in livery colours, with the owner’s crest or badge at the hoist and his motto in the fly, and is used by lairds who have a following but are not peers or feudal barons (see also ‘badge in heraldry’, ‘lanceolate’, ‘livery colours’, ‘motto’ and ‘pinsel’)..
4) Generically, any small swallow-tailed flag.

Guidon of the Blues and Royals, UK (Graham Bartram)

Please note, some sources suggest that the term is derived from guide-homme (guide-man), but this remains unproven, and the similarity with the medieval terms ‘geton’, ‘giton’ or ‘gytton’ cannot be ignored.

The heraldic term for the colour red (see also ‘Appendix III’ and ‘rule of tincture’).

1) A form of saluting, ashore and afloat, in which 21 blank rounds are fired by artillery or naval guns to honour a country or its flag.
2) A form of saluting in which an appropriate number of guns are fired to honour a head of state, other dignitary, or a senior officer, or the flag representing him (see also ‘broad pennant’, ‘distinguishing flag 1)’, ‘flag of command’, ‘flagship’ and ‘rank flag 1)’).

Please note that flag officers will receive a number of guns scaled according to their rank - that is an Admiral of the Fleet/five star admiral - 19 guns; Admiral - 17 guns; Vice Admiral - 15 guns; Rear Admiral – 13 guns, whilst a Commodore receives 11 guns and a Captain only seven in reply.

Please note also that in some countries a celebratory salute of as many as 101 guns may be fired at the birth of a royal heir or other occasion of national celebration (example--50 guns at noon on 4 July at US Army posts), and that minute guns (that is one shot fired every minute) may be fired in connection with the death or funeral of a person entitled to a gun salute.

A medieval term, now obsolete, for a gonfanon (see ‘gonfanon’).

When the field of a flag or shield is divided into sectors (called gyrons) radiating from or near the centre of the flag or shield – typically eight in heraldic practice, but an undetermined number on flags. Formerly a characteristic of Swiss military flags, the best known present-day example is probably the jack of the Royal Netherlands Navy (and compare with ‘radiating’). See supplemental note

From left: Naval Jack of the Netherlands (CS)
Swiss Regiment (De Meuron) in British service 18th C (fotw)