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half mast or halfstaff: the practice of flying a flag from the midpoint of the pole as a sign of mourning; the custom in the US is to hoist the flag to the top of the pole for a moment and then lower it to the halfstaff position.

hoist: the vertical half of the flag nearest the staff; in illustrations, the hoist is shown to the viewer's left (see also fly).

Honor Jack: special naval jack authorized for ships of the French Navy bearing the names of vessels which served in the Free French Navy (FNFL) during the Second World War; it displays the Cross of Lorraine, emblem of Free France, in red on a white on a white lozenge with red and blue corners.

Honor Jack (France)

house flag: the distinguishing flag of a shipping line, e.g. the red flag with white star used by Cunard; always flown in conjunction with the civil ensign.

House Flag of the Asiatic Steam Navigation Co. (UK)



jack: a flag of nationality, often of different design and/or proportions than the ensign, flown from the bows of ships, especially warships and other government vessels; as a rule, the jack is only flown when the ship is moored or anchored and always in conjunction with the relevant ensign (see also Honor Jack, Union Jack).


Naval Jacks, Kingdom of Italy (1861-1946) & Russian Federation (Current)

jack staff: the staff from which a ship's jack is flown.

Jolly Roger: a pirate flag, generally represented as the traditional skull-and-crossbones badge in white on a black field; in fact there were many different designs, most dating from the late 17th to the early 19th centuries.



King's Colour: see Queen's Colour.


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Landesfarben (Ger.): lit. "land colors"; the traditional heraldic colors of the states and territories of Germany; usually rendered in flag form as horizontal bicolors or tricolors, e.g. black-white for Prussia; such flags were sometimes charged with the state coat of arms and many, e.g. that of Saxony (white-green with or without arms) are still in use today (see also Reichfarben flag).

Landesfarben Flag of East Prussia (1822-1935)

Lone Star Flag: the flag of the state of Texas (US); it was also the flag of the independent Republic of Texas (1836-45); a flag with a wide vertical hoist stripe of dark blue charged with a white star, the rest of the flag being divided horizontally white over red.

The Lone Star Flag (Texas)



Maple Leaf Flag: popular nickname for the national flag of
Canada adopted in 1965; it displays a red maple leaf on a white field between two narrow vertical red stripes.

The Maple Leaf Flag (Canada)

marker flag: small flag or pennant used, especially during the nineteenth century,
to align or "dress" the ranks when a regiment of infantry was drawn up in formation, either on parade or in line of battle; generally they were small and often they were attached to staffs that fit into the muzzle of a musket. (see also guidon).

Marker Flag of a Russian Army Infantry Company (1866 Regulations)

Merchant Stripes: historical American flag consisting of seven red and six white alternating horizontal stripes, i.e. the design of the First Navy Jack without the charge or motto; in use ca. 1775-1785 as the US civil ensign.

The Merchant Stripes (US)

Meteor Flag: traditional nickname for the version of the British Red Ensign used from 1707 to 1801; the Union Jack in the canton had no St. Patrick's Cross; unlike the current Red Ensign, which is the UK civil ensign, the Meteor Flag was primarily a war ensign (see also Red Ensign, Taunton Flag).

The Meteor Flag (Great Britain)

military service flag: see army service flag, war flag.



National Color: in the
US Army, the term used for the US national flag, especially when it is ornamented with yellow fringe for display with Organizational Colors or other military flags (see also Standard of the United States, two-color system).

National Color (48-Star Version)

national ensign: (1) term used when the same ensign is employed for civilian, government and naval vessels; (2) the US national flag when used at sea (cap. National Ensign).

national flag: (1) term used when the same flag is employed for all purposes on land. (2) informal term for the most commonly used version of a country's national flag in cases where there are variants such a state flag and/or a war flag.

national flag and ensign: term used when the same flag is employed for all purposes on land and at sea, as in France and the US.

national flag blue: official name of the shade of dark blue used for the canton of the US national flag; also known as Old Glory blue.

naval ensign: an ensign for naval vessels (see also battle ensign, forked ensign, Splittsflagge, White Ensign).


Current Naval Ensigns of Italy, Poland & Ukraine

New England Flag: any one of a number of flags used in colonial New England and especially in the Massachusetts Bay colony, most of which derived from English ensigns of the 17th-18th centuries; e.g. a red flag with St. George's Cross as a canton, with or without a green pine tree in the first quarter of the St. George Cross, or various adaptations of the Meteor Flag; from these colonial flags evolved first the Continental Colors and finally the early versions of the Stars and Stripes (see also Bunker Hill Flag, Taunton Flag).

A New England Flag (ca. 1700)



obverse: the front of a flag, i.e. the flag displayed with the hoist to the viewer's left (see also reverse).

Old Glory: popular nickname for the US national flag (see also "Great Star" flags, Stars and Stripes, Star Spangled Banner, The).

Old Glory blue: see national flag blue.

Organizational Color: in the
US Army, the term applied to flags carried by color-bearing units, i.e. regiments and battalions; these flags are charged with the regimental or battalion coat of arms, and their overall design descends from that of The Standard of the United States (see also Organizational Flag, regimental color).

Organizational Flag: in the
US Army, the term applied to flags carried by units not authorized an Organizational Color, e.g. groups, brigades, divisions and major commands; many such flags are vertical or horizontal bicolors of the appropriate branch colors, and most are charged with the organization's shoulder sleeve insignia (formation sign).


US Army Organizational Flags, 1st Infantry Division & 193rd Infantry Brigade



pennon: the small forked flag carried on cavalry lances, e.g. the distinctive pennons of
Polish Army cavalry regiments.

Polish Army Lance Pennon (ca. 1935)

pilot flag: flag hoisted by a ship to request or indicate the presence on board of a harbor pilot; such flags are often a variation of the relevant civil ensign.

Positional Color: in the
US Army, a flag identified with a specific office or appointment, e.g. the President, the Chief of Staff of the Army, the Chief of Engineers, the Adjutant General, etc.; Positional Colors are displayed by the individuals holding such offices and appointments though technically they symbolize the office, not the individual (see also presidential flag, prime minister's flag, flag of rank).

US Army Positional Color (Chief of Engineers)

presidential flag: flag displayed by a president (head of state); in some cases, e.g. Ireland, it is a banner of the state arms and thus similar in concept to a royal flag; in other cases, e.g. Finland, it is a variant of the state flag; and in still others the design is distinctive, e.g. the US presidential flag, which is charged with the unique presidential coat of arms, a variant of the US coat of arms.

Presidential Flag (Ireland)

prime minister's flag: flag displayed by the head of the government in nations with a parliamentary system; often a square version of the the national flag or the state flag defaced with a coat of arms or badge.

Prime Minister's Flag (Serbia & Montenegro)

Princevlag (Prince's Flag): flag of the Dutch Republic, a horizontal tricolor of orange, white and yellow stripes first used in 1572 by the Watergeuzen (Sea Beggers), a rebel group prominent in the Dutch Revolt against Spanish rule; adopted as a war ensign by the Admiralty of Zeeland in 1587; the colors orange and blue derive from the arms of the Prince of Orange-Nassau, leader of the revolt, and white symbolizes the struggle for national independence; from 1650 a similar flag with red replacing orange (the current national flag of the Netherlands) replaced it though the Princevlag continued to be used; from 1928 to 1994 a version with a badge on the white stripe served as the national flag of South Africa.

The Princevlag



quarter or quarterly: term adopted from heraldry; the division of a flag into four equal rectangular segments (see also banner of arms).

The Earl of Oxford's Heraldic Standard, Divided Quarterly (England, Fifteenth Century)

Queen's Colour (formerly King's Colour): In the
UK, a version of the Union Jack used as a military color, made square or nearly square and defaced with the regimental badge; modern versions are ornamented with a gold-and-scarlet fringe; in those countries other than the UK which recognize the British monarch as head of state, e.g. Canada, the modern Queen's Colour is a variant of the relevant national flag (see also regimental color, two-color system).

King's Colour, 9th Regiment of Foot (ca. 1775)



Red Duster: nickname for the current British Red Ensign (see also Meteor Flag).

Red Ensign: the civil ensign of the UK, a red flag with the Union Jack as a canton; when defaced with a badge in the fly this was also the flag of many former British colonies, e.g. Canada; the current flag of Bermuda, a British dependent territory, is the Red Ensign with the colony's badge in the fly; certain other British dependent territories, e.g. Gibraltar, have permission to use the Red Ensign, defaced with their badge or arms, as a civil ensign only (see also Canadian Red Ensign, Meteor Flag, Red Duster, Taunton Flag).

The Red Ensign (UK)

regimental color: the distinguishing flag of a military unit, especially an army formation of battalion or regimental size; modern versions are usually ornamented with fringe and bear the regimental number, title, battle honors, badge and/or coat of arms; in the US and the UK, it is carried with a version of the national flag; in other countries, e.g. France, the regimental color is itself a variant of the national flag (see also colonel's color, cornet, drapeau d'ordannance, eagle, ensign, National Color, Organizational Color, Organizational Flag, Queen's Colour, standard, Standard of the United States, two-color system, vexillum, war flag).

Regimental Colour, 17th Regiment of Foot (Great Britain ca. 1760)

Reichfarben (Ger.) flag: lit. "imperial colors"; the war flag of the Habsburg Monarchy, ca. 1700-1918; a horizontal bicolor, black over yellow, these being the Habsburg dynastic colors (see also Landesfarben).

Austrian/Austro-Hungarian Reichfarben Flag

Reich War Flag (Ger. Reichkriegsflagge): (1) the war flag and war ensign of Imperial Germany, 1871-1919; it was white, charged with a black and white cross, defaced with a disk bearing the black eagle of Prussia, and with the black-white-red national flag defaced with a large Iron Cross as a canton; a flag of the same design as this canton was the Imperial German jack and later, with the addition of a small black-red-gold canton, the war ensign of Weimar Germany, 1921-33; (2) the war ensign of Nazi Germany, 1935-45, an adaptation of the design of the Imperial ensign, being red instead of white with a swastika on the disk and an Iron Cross in the canton.

Reich War Flag, 1935-45

retreat ceremony: in the US armed forces, a formal ceremony during which the National Color is lowered at the end of the day (see also colors, "To the Color").

reverse: the back of a flag, i.e. the flag displayed with the hoist to the viewer's right (see also obverse).

Rising Sun Flag: popular nickname for the Japanese war ensign, a white flag with a red disk offset toward the hoist and a halo of red rays.

Royal Command Flag: personal flag in the form of a banner of the Swedish royal arms, used by the King of
Sweden in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Swedish armed forces; the ordinary royal flag is the Swedish forked ensign, defaced with a white square bearing the full royal arms.

Royal Crest (UK): badge consisting of a crowned lion standing on a royal crown; it appears on various British and Commonwealth flags, including those of the governors-general of most countries which continue to recognize Elizabeth II as head of state, e.g. Australia; such flags are dark blue, charged with the Royal Crest over a scroll inscribed with the name of the country.

Royal Cypher (UK): (1) badge consisting of the sovereign's initials surmounted by a crown; used to deface various British and Commonwealth flags, e.g. the flag of a general officer of the British Army when on board ship is the Union Jack, defaced with a badge consisting of the Royal Cypher on a dark blue disk surrounded by a gold garland; (2) in general, any kind of royal badge which incorporates the initials of a king, queen, prince regent, etc.; royal cyphers are part of the insignia of most European monarchies.

royal flag: term generally applied to the personal flags of monarchs, especially when they are in the form of the national flag or some variant thereof defaced with the royal arms or a royal badge such as a crown, e.g. the royal flags of the Danish and Swedish monarchs (see also banner of arms, Royal Command Flag, Royal Standard).

Royal Standard: the Royal Arms of the UK in banner form, i.e. the Queen's personal flag; two versions exist, one for use in Scotland and one for use in the rest of the UK and its dependent territories; additionally the Queen has a number of Personal Flags for use in Commonwealth nations which continue to recognize her as head of state, e.g. Canada; these personal flags are banners of the state arms defaced with a royal badge; the modern custom is to fly these flags only when the sovereign is personally present, e.g. from the mainmast of a warship when the Queen is aboard (see also banner of arms, royal flag).

Royal Standard (UK)