Vexillological Terms

Vexillology is the study of the history and symbolism of flags. Like any field of study, it has its own jargon and technical terms. Terms used in these pages are defined here.

Adoption Date
The date a flag is officially adopted in accordance with a legal statute, official proclamation, or other such official pronouncement.

Canton
That quarter of the flag at the upper hoist.

Civil Ensign
A flag for use by private citizens at sea.

Civil Flag
A flag for use by private citizens on land.

Defacement
Adding badges, devices or other symbols to a flag already in existence.

Ensign
A flag for use at sea only.

Field
The background colour of a flag.

Fimbriation
Heraldic edging (i.e. a thin border) around an object, historically only white (silver) or yellow (gold).

Flag Proportion
The ratio of the width to the length of the flag, given as a ratio of integers in the form n:m (width:length).

Fly
The half of the flag furthest away from the hoist.

Heraldry
The study of Arms and Shields.

Hoist
That half of the flag adjacent to the edge attached to a pole, rope, or other device used to suspend a flag horizontally or vertically.

Military Ensign
A flag for use by official Government defence forces at sea.

Military Flag
A flag for use by official Government defence forces on land.

State Ensign
A flag or ensign for use by the official Government and, usually, its instruments of office, at sea.

State Flag
A flag or ensign for use by the official Government and, usually, its instruments of office, on land.