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hheraldry - 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
 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
 roundel  circular design or symbol
 salient  leaping
 semé  scattered with small figures
 splendor  human-faced sun surrounded with rays
 tierced  divided into three


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:




see thumbnail to rightFrance, 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.



see thumbnail to leftEnglish, 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).




see thumbnail to rightUnited 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.



see thumbnail to leftBaron 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)



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Also see crown, logo, sign, and symbol.



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