heraldry - Armorial shields, bearings, ensigns or similar insignia. Especially a coat of arms (also called a "complete achievement") which is an arrangement of shapes and figures — called bearings — usually depicted on and around a shield, that indicates ancestry and distinctions.
Historically, heraldic imagery has been displayed on flags and on military arms and armor, helping to identify combatants on battlefields. In feudal societies, it marked distinguished individuals, families, and institutions. Today, heraldic imagery is placed in a family's home on its dining table — on objects made of silver, porcelain, glass, etc. — or printed on its stationery, bookplates, etc.
Heraldry has long been associated with traditions of a European aristocracy whose cultural roles have changed over the years. Depending on one's political attitudes, heraldry's contemporary uses are variously revered, envied, reviled, or merely passé. Because so many of today's emblems of individual and class identity are different from those of the past, some applications of heraldic imagery today are likely to be considered artificial or pretentious.
Completely describing a coat of arms in heraldic terms is called blazoning. A charge is anything borne on a shield, whether upon a field (the surface of a single area) or upon an ordinary (an edge dividing a shield). Heraldic terms include:
terms in heraldry and their meaning addorsed back to back ambulant walking attires deer's antlers bearing / charge / device emblem or figure on a shield bezant gold roundel blazen written description of armorial bearing camelopard giraffelike creatures with horns canting arms / armes parlantes punning shiled or emblem canton small square division on a shield chevron cinquefoil five-petaled flower clarion horn or trumpet cockatrice cockerel with a dragon's wings and tail cognizance crest or badge College of Arms ruling body of Heraldry in England couchant lying, with head raised Court of the Lord Lyon ruling body of heraldry in Scotland dormant lying, with head on paws embattled with battlements ensigned with official headgear, such as a coronet or miter, set above the shield escutcheon shield field surface of a single area of a shield gouttes droplets griffin beast with the front parts of an eagle and the back parts of a lion hatchment / achievement diamond-shaped display of a dead person's coat of arms herald senior heraldic officer issuant emerging lambrequin / mantling scarf over a helmet mound mound or sphere of gold nowed knotted ordinary fields into which a shield is divided. Mostly plain in their shape, ordinaries include those known as the pale, fess, cross, bordure, chief, bend, saltire, chevron, pile, and diminutives part or parition the way in which a shield is divided into areas of two or more colors phoenix eagle-like bird arising from flames and ashes pursuivant junior heraldic officer quatrefoil four-petaled flower rampant roundel circular design or symbol salient leaping semé scattered with small figures splendor human-faced sun surrounded with rays tierced divided into three tincture
When a coat of arms is represented in black and white, the tinctures are indicated by a standard system of patterns, called metals (gold or silver), colors (gules [red], azure [blue], sable [black], vert [green], purpure [purple], tenné [orange], sanguine [blood red]) and furs (ermine, vair, and potent).
undé / undy wavy undée pointed urinant (water animal) with head bowed voided with center empty or cut out volant flying wyvern two-legged winged dragon
Examples of heraldic designs:
France, Beauvais, 1685, Chancellery Tapestry with Louis XIV's Coat of Arms and Louis Boucherat's Monogram, tapestry, wool and silk, 3.61 x 4.40 m, Louvre. See coat of arms and monogram.
English, Bookplate for the Earl of Guilford, Wroxton Abbey, 18th century, engraving, 112 x 90 mm, U of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN. This heraldic design consists of a shield supported by two dragons rampant, wings elevated, ducally gorged and chained, with an earl's crown. The arms: azure a lion passant or between three fleurs-de-lis argent. The motto: "La vertu est la seule noblesse." This bookplate most likely belonged to Francis, 1st Earl of Guilford (1704-1790), Frederick, 2nd Earl (1732-1792), or George Augustus, 3rd Earl (1757-1802).
United States of America, Boston, Bookplate of Oliver Wendell Holmes, "Per ampliora ad altiora", 1875, engraving, c. 10.3 x 7.4 cm, U of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN. This bookplate depicts a seashell with a volute design.
Baron von Voelkersam (German) designer, Bookplate for Czar Nicholas II, 1907, Library of the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia. The focal point of the arms of the czar is an ancipital eagle.
Mauro Pieroni (Italian, contemporary)
Also see crown, logo, sign, and symbol.