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Glossary

Appliqué
Badge
Break out a flag / Break a flag
Bunting
Burgee
Canadian pale
Canton
Charge
Cleat
Colour
Courtesy Flag
Defacing
Dipping
  Dress Ship
Ensign
Fan
Finials
Field
Fimbration
Fly
Gaff
Grommet
Ground
Halyard
Hoist
House Flag
  Jack
Proportions
Ratio
Rope and Toggle
Semaphore
Signal Flag
Sleeve
Staff
Substrate
Swallowtailed
Truck
Yardarm
Vexillology

 

Appliqué
A mode of flag manufacture in which one or more pieces of cloth are stitched on the field to form the design.

Badge
A distinctive emblem added to an existing flag.

Break out a flag/Break a flag
To unfurl a flag which has been rolled and tied in such a way that a sharp tug on the halyard will cause it to open out.

Bunting
Strong, loosely woven material used for making flags.

Burgee
The small distinguishing flag of a yacht club, usually triangular or swallowtailed.

Canadian pale
A pale in the shape of a square, as used on the Canadian flag.

Canton
The upper corner of a flag next to the staff where a special design, such as a union, appears.

Charge
Any object placed on the field of a flag or shield.

Cleat
A metal device with two arms, attached near the bottom of a staff, to which halyards are attached.

Colour
The flag of a military unit.

Courtesy Flag
The flag of a country being visited by a ship from a different nation, as flown by that vessel.

Defacing
Differencing a flag by adding something to it, such as a charge, a badge, or writing. Used especially on colonial flags. Note that this term does not have the usual meaning of "vandalizing" when used in vexillology.

Dipping
The custom of lowering a flag briefly to honour an important person, another vessel, etc.

Dress Ship
To decorate a vessel with flags for a special occasion.

Ensign
A generic term for flag, especially associated with naval flags of nationality (civil ensign, naval reserve ensign, etc.) and by extension in British usage with distinguishing flags of government services on land.

Fan
A semicircular patriotic decoration in bunting of flag design and/or colours.

Finials
The ornament at the top of a staff above the truck.

Field
The background (predominant colour) of a flag.

Fimbration
A narrow line separating two other colours in a flag.

Fly
The free end of a flag, farthest from the staff. The term is also used for the horizontal length of the flag.

Gaff
A spar from which a flag is hoisted, jutting from the mizzenmast of a shop or from a staff on land.

Grommet
A hole reinforced by stitching or a metal ring, usually found at both ends of the heading, through which clips attached to the halyards pass.

Ground
The background of a flag.

Halyard
A rope used to hoist and lower a flag.

Hoist
That part of a flag nearest the staff; also a group of signal flags to be flown together; also a synonym for width.

House Flag
The distinguishing flag of a commercial firm, flown especially at sea; sometimes used in reference to the personal flag of the owner of a yacht or home.

Jack
A small flag flown under certain circumstances at the prow of a vessel, usually a warship.

Proportions
The relative size of a flag, expressed in terms of its width to length ratio, e.g., 1:2.

Ratio
The relationship of a flag's width to its length; e.g. France is 2:3; Germany is 3:5; Russia is 1:2.

Rope and Toggle
A method of hoisting a flag by means of a rope sewn into its heading, which has a wooden toggle at the top and a loop of rope at the bottom that fasten to their opposites at the ends of the halyard.

Semaphore
A system of signaling by means of two flags held in various positions.

Signal Flag
Any of a number of flags of recognized (and usually simple) design, such as the International Code of Signals, used to transmit messages, especially at sea.

Sleeve
A tube of material along the hoist of a flag through which the staff is inserted, used especially for a parade flag or colour.

Staff
A cylindrical piece of wood, plastic or metal to which a flag is attached or from which it is hoisted.

Substrate
The fabric or material on which a design is printed.

Swallowtailed
Having a large triangular section cut from the fly end, a characteristic of pennants and of war ensigns of Northern Europe.

Truck
A device at the top of a staff below the finial which provides, usually through a pulley, for the raising and lowering of the halyards.

Yardarm
A bar attached horizontally to a staff on the mizzenmast of a ship or on shore in imitation of naval usage.

Vexillology
The scientific study of the history, symbolism, and usage of flags or, by extension, any interest in flags in general.

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