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Dictionary of Vexillology: C (Confanonerius - Cypher)

Last modified: 2006-09-30 by phil nelson
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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A medieval term, now obsolete, for a ‘standard bearer’.

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

A basically heraldic term used when two or more symbols or elements from a coat of arms are joined together to form the appearance of a united whole, as in the 1606 pattern of union jack (see also ‘union jack 1)’ and ‘union mark’).

Union flag 1606
The 1606 Pattern of Union Flag, UK (CS)

Please note – not to be confused with two sets of arms, or elements from those arms, which are impaled by dimidiation – see 'dimidiated' and following note.

See ‘cognisance’’.

The usually religious ceremony at which a new military or other ceremonial colour is dedicated – a service of consecration (see also ‘colour 2)’ and ‘parade flag’).

The first US national flag whose canton consisted of the British 1606 pattern union flag rather than white stars on a blue field, and in unofficial use from 1775 – 1777 – the grand union (see also ‘stars and stripes’).

customs flags
The Continental Colors, US (fotw)

See ‘Appendix V’.

See ‘fanion 2)’.

1) A length of decorative string or rope made from several twisted strands with tassels at each end, generally made of silk (or a silk-like material) in the livery or national colours (or gold/silver thread), simply knotted or tied a bow at the centre and used to decorate a staff just below the finial (see also ‘finial’, ‘livery colours’, ‘national colours 2)’, ‘staff 2)’ and ‘tassels’).
2) As above but without tassels and used to finish the edges of a flag, usually in the livery or national colours (or gold/silver thread).

The flag whose design forms the basis of other flags, or which inspired the creation of other flags, with a typical example being the French tricolore (see also ‘archivexillum’, ‘difference 1)’ ‘flag family’, 'pan-African Colours', 'pan-Arab Colours' and 'pan-Slavic Colours').

1) In largely British maritime usage a term, now increasingly obsolete, for a small triangular pennant (see also 'pennant 2)').
2) In largely British RN and some other usage a term, now almost wholly obsolete, for a swallow-tailed flag, particularly a signal flag (see also ‘signal flag’ and ‘swallow-tail(ed)’).
3) A 17th/18th Century generic term, now obsolete, referring to any small, swallow-tailed flag.
4) An alternative form of ‘guidon’, now obsolete, as being the distinguishing flag of a cavalry regiment (see also ‘guidon 2)’).
5) A term, now obsolete, for lowest commissioned rank in the cavalry regiments of some countries (including those of the UK), being that rank responsible for carrying the regiment’s cornet or guidon.

1) On flags a crown without a curved bar across the top that is by no means restricted to monarchies, and may be seen in a wide variety of shapes and circumstances (see also ‘antique crown’, 'civic crown', ‘crown’, 'mural crown' and 'naval crown').
2) In English heraldry a crown without cross bar across the top as above, but also a symbol of nobility whose exact design is dependent upon the rank of the person concerned (see also as above).

(Martin Grieve)

Please note that the use of a cross-bar across the top to indicate royal status and to differentiate between a crown and a coronet is of comparatively recent date.

See ‘banner 3)’.

The distinguishing flag of a shore based commercial concern as opposed to that of merchant marine company (see also ‘house flag 1)’ and ‘logo’).

Please note that some shore based companies have adopted the practice of using the term house flag.

1) On flags, a term that may be used to describe the addition of one or more narrow stripes or bands to an existing charge (such as a stripe or cross) but which is separated from that charge by a strip of field.
2) In heraldry the term has a rather more restricted/complex use which is briefly described in Appendix VII, however, it is suggested that a suitable glossary or dictionary of heraldry should be consulted for further details.

[cotticed example]
Naval Ensign of Ukraine (fotw)

See ‘Appendix V’.

(adj) A basically heraldic term used to describe two colours alternating either side of a line drawn through a flag or coat of arms.

1) See ‘Appendix V’.
2) In heraldry, a term sometimes used when an ordinary does not extend to the edges of a shield or banner of arms, for example a cross-couped (see also ‘Greek cross 2)’ and ‘ordinary’).

That flag (normally, but not exclusively, the national flag of the country being visited) flown from a prominent position on a merchant vessel as a matter of courtesy when visiting a foreign port – a complimentary flag (see also ‘yardarm’).

1) A decorative scarf, usually in national or livery colours and often richly decorated, tied with a bow to the staff below the finial, normally (but not exclusively) used with military flags (see also ‘draping’, ‘finial’, ‘livery colours’, ‘national colours 2)’ and ‘staff 2)’).
2) Long black ribbons tied to the staff of a military colour below the finial to signify mourning by the regiment or unit concerned for the loss of members of that regiment, or when participating in a military or state funeral - but see ‘draping’.

Please note that in French military usage, and possibly in others, the cravat is employed (including use with car flags) to differentiate between ranks and functions.

1) On flags, a charge in the shape of a crescent moon formed by two interlinked circles of varying size, generally (but not invariably) shown with the open horns towards the fly, and considered to be symbolic of Islam.
2) In heraldry a charge in the form of a crescent moon whose horns unless otherwise specified point upwards.

From left: Arms (CS); The National Flag of Turkey (fotw)

A heraldic term for a symbol attached to the helm above the torse and placed over the shield (see also ‘Appendix IV’, ‘armorial bearings’, ‘coat of arms’, ‘helm’, ‘shield’ and ‘wreath 2)’).

Please note that the term crest should only be used as specifically defined above, and not as a synonym for a coat of arms or set of armorial bearings (see also ‘armorial bearings’ and ‘coat of arms’).

See ‘swastika’.
1) Two stripes or bands of equal width (and in the same colour) but of unequal length, that extend to the outer edges of the shield, flag, canton or panel they occupy, and intersect at right angles in the exact centre of that flag, canton or panel – a cross throughout or square cross (see also ‘St George’s Cross’).
2) A charge, which may or may not reach the outer edges of the shield, flag, canton or panel it occupies, and which may not have straight edges but which has four segments meeting at right angles at a central point – but see note below (also ‘charge’ and ‘Maltese cross’).
3) A generic name for two stripes of the same colour (although counter-changed variants exist) and any width, crossing the field of a flag, panel or canton in any manner (see also ‘saltire’).

From left: Flag of Hajdina, Slovenia (fotw); Flag of Asturias, Spain (fotw); Naval Jack 1921-33, Germany (fotw)

Please note however, that whilst the main types used on flags are detailed separately herein – the cross throughout as given in 1) above, the Greek cross, the Scandinavian cross, the saltire (or diagonal cross) and the Maltese cross – numerous other variants exist (mostly used in heraldry but which also sometimes appear on flags), and it is suggested that a suitable glossary or heraldic dictionary be consulted (but see also ‘Cross of Lorraine’ and ‘swastika’).

The transverse rod, from which a flag is suspended, either attached in the centre or from one end, or hung by ropes from a vertical pole or poles (see particularly ‘framed flag’, ‘gonfalon’ ‘hanging flag’ and and ‘vexillum’).

A cross in which two horizontal arms cross the vertical arm, and currently seen on the arms of Hungary and Slovakia (see also ‘cross’).

[cross of Lorraine]
From left: The Flag of Free France 1940-44; The National Flag of Slovakia; The Arms of Hungary (fotw)

See ‘couped 2)’ and ‘Greek cross’.

See ‘cross 1)’.

1) In largely US usage, a yard if fitted to a flag mast ashore (see also ‘yard’).
2) A cross bar attached near the top of an unstayed flagpole for the purpose of providing additional halyards to the one reeved at the truck (see also ‘reeve’, 'yard' and 'stayed mast').

A ceremonial headpiece in the shape of a circlet often made of precious metal and adorned with pearls and gemstones – see note below (also ‘antique crown’ and ‘coronet’).

UK Royal Crown (Martin Grieve)

Please note that on flags a crown with a curved bar or bars across the top and a cap within generally (but not invariably) signifies a reigning monarch or prince, however, the actual design will usually be specific to a given country and considerable variations exist. Please note also that in heraldry the term crown has a far wider use, and whilst a few of the many types encountered are described in this dictionary, it is strongly suggested that a specialist glossary or dictionary of heraldry be consulted for full details.

The heraldic term for a coronet placed per bend – or diagonally – across rather than above a shield or quarter – a crancelin (see also ‘bend’ in ‘appendix VI’, ‘coronet’, ‘per bend’, ‘quarter’ and ‘shield 1)’)

Crown of Rue
The Flag and Arms of Saxony, Germany (CS)

The heraldic term for a closed garland or chaplet, usually composed of laurel leaves, and based on the ancient Roman triumphal ornament (see also ‘civic crown 2)’, ‘decking’, ‘garland’ and ‘wreath of immortelles’).


A term for the central point at which the two triangles formed by a swallow-tailed cut in the fly meet (see also ‘swallow-tail(ed)’).

A flag or ensign, different from the national/state flag or government ensign (or a variant thereof) or a pennant, which specifically identifies the installations or vessels of a country’s customs service (see also ‘national flag’, ‘government ensign’ under ‘ensign’, and ‘state flag’).

customs flags
From left: Customs Flags/Ensign, Israel; Customs Flag, Japan; Customs Ensign, Iceland; Customs Flag, US; Customs Pennant, Thailand (fotw)

Vexillological research and/or the publication of vexillological information using electronic means, particularly the Internet or other electronic delivery systems.

See ‘monogram’.