Flag Terms & Facts


Appliqued- One piece of material sewn (stitched) to another as opposed to printed or dyed designs.


Canton- Rectangular or square part of a flag, usually found in the upper hoist corner.

Cleat- The device used to secure the bottom of a flag pole halyard (rope).

Color Fastness- The ability of a material to resist fading and color migration – a relative term.

Colors- A flag, ensign or standard borne in an army of fleet. A country’s national flag.

Double Seal- A flag which reads correctly from both sides because a portion of the flag has another design sewn to the back side.

Double Thickness- Actually two single flags sewn back to back which doubles the flag weight and affects the flyability and wearing quality. Not recommended for use on outdoor flagpoles.

Ensign- A flag, banner, or standard showing office, rank, or nationality, especially of an army or ship.

Ferrule- The tubular portion of an ornament placed over the top of a pole to hold the ornament.

Field- On a U.S. flag, the blue part.

Flash Collar- A decorative cover used at the base of an outdoor flagpole.

Fly End- The free flying end of a flag, usually opposite the heading.

Fringed- A flag with decorative fringe around all or part of its perimeter.

Front- The surface seen when a flag is in its normal flying position with the hoist to the viewer’s left. (The “Back” is the reverse).

Grommets- The brass rings or eyelets (normally in the heading) for mounting outdoor flags.

Halyard- The rope for an outdoor flagpole used to raise and lower the flag.

Heading- The heavy canvas or other reinforcing material at the side or end from which the flag or banner will be supported.

Hoist- The side of a flag next to the pole.

Indoor Flags- Flags constructed primarily for indoor display or temporary outdoor parade use, with pole hem and usually fringed.

Jack- A small flag flown at the bow of a ship, usually to indicate nationality. U.S. Jack is blue with 50 white stars.

Joint- The device used to hold a 2-piece pole together.

Outdoor Flags- Flags constructed primarily for use on an outdoor pole- with heading and grommets or rope.

Plain- A flag without fringe.

Pole Band- The canvas heading of the flag left open at both ends so that a staff can be passed through it.

Pole Hem- A sleeve or tunnel of the same fabric and color as the background of the flag, through which the staff is passed for mounting indoor and parade flags.

Roped- A flag with a rope passing through the heading and looped and secured at each end. The halyard of the flagpole is then attached to the loops. Normally used only on large outdoor flags.

Single/Reverse- A flag which reads correctly from the front and reverse from the rear.

Snap Hook- A device used to attach a flag to the halyard (rope) on a flagpole.

Truck- The device at the top of an outdoor pole that houses the pulley wheel and to which an ornament is mounted.


Battle Flag-  This flag is carried by armed forces on land.

Battle Streamer- This is attached to the flag of a military unit, names battles or campaigns where the unit served with distinction.

Bend On- This term means to attach signal flag to a halyard.

Bunting- This is the cloth decorated with the national colors. The term is also used for the woollen cloth used in making flags.

Burgee- This is a tapered flag or pennant, often used by a sailing club, that ends in a swallowtail of two points.
Civil Flag- The official (or unofficial) flag of the country used by the people, perhaps public flag would be clearer. As opposed to the state flag reserved for the government or the military. A civil ensign is a flag used at sea by private ( or any non-government) ships- Nathan Augustine, 1996-09-27.

Commission Pennant (also known as Masthead Pennant)-  This is a very long and narrow pennant flown from the main mast of a naval vessel, used to indicate the public character of a ship, also called a commissioning pennant, masthead pennant, narrow pennant and coachwhip pennant.

Courtesy Flag- This is the national flag of the country a merchant ship or yacht visits, hoisted as the ship enters port.

Ensign-  This is a flag flown at the stern of a ship, primarily for the identification of the nationality of the vessel. The ensign may be the same flag used as the national flag, or a specially designed version of the national flag.

Field- This is the background (predominant color) of a flag.

Finial- This is the ornament at the end of a flagstaff or flag pole.

Flag- A piece of cloth, varying in size, shape, color and design, usually attached at one edge to a staff or cord, and used as the symbol of a nation, state or organization, as a means of signaling, etc.; ensign; standard; banner; pennant.

Flag Hoist- This is a group of signal flags attached to the same halyard and hoisted as a unit.

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

Garrison Flag- In the United States Army, this flies over military posts on holidays and special days. A Garrison Flag is 20 feet (6 m) wide by 38 feet (12 m) long, twice as wide and long as a post flag.

Grommet- This is a metal ring place along the hoist of a flag to attach the halyard. Two piece metal grommets were first used in the U.S. about the time of the Civil War or just after.

Halyard- This is a rope used to hoist and lower a flag.

Header- This is a heavy cloth strip, usually canvas, sewn to the hoist edge of a flag and often grommeted for hoisting.

Hoist- This is the part of the flag closest to the staff. The term is also used for the vertical width of a flag.

Honor Point-  This place on a flag where the color or charge with the greatest or highest symbolism is placed almost always the upper left.

National Flag- This is a flag of a country.

Outrigger Pole- A flag pole coming off the side of a building at an angle.

Pennant (pennon)- This is a small triangular or tapering flag. It is not always easy to distinguish a pennant from a flag. W. Smith stated that “the common denominator distinguishing a pennant from a flag seems to be that the former is always secondary to the latter in importance and differs in shape, proportions, size, and/or manner of display”. In naval terms certain pennants have a significance out of all proportion to their size. For example, for the Russian-American Company flag  a ship flying the flag was a merchant ship but a ship flying the same flag and a pennant was a warship David Prothero, 25 June 1997.

Post Flag- In the U.S. Army, flies regularly over every Army base. It is 10 feet (3 m) wide by 19 feet (5.8 m) long. See Garrison Flag.

Ratio- The relationship of a flag’s width to it’s length, e.g. France is 2:3; Germany is 3:5, Russia is 1:2.

Reeve- This means to pull the halyard through the truck, raising or lowering a flag.

Signal Flags- This is a set of flags used to signify letters and numbers, hoisted to communicate between ships at sea.

Staff- This is a pole the flag hangs on.

Storm Flag- This flag (in the U.S. Army) flies over an Army base in stormy weather. It is 5 feet ( 1.5 m) wide by 9 feet 6 inches ( 2.9 m) long, half as wide and half as long as a post flag.

Streamer- This is a long, narrow flag.

Swallowtail- This flag which comes to two or three points at the fly end.

Truck- This is the wooden or metal block at the top of a flag pole below the finial (staff ornament). It includes a pulley or holes for halyard.

Vexillology- This is the study of flag history and symbolism. The name comes from the Latin Word vexillum, which means flag. The word was coined by Dr. Whitney Smith of Flag Research Center.

War Flag- This is the official flag of the country used by the military.

Coat Of Arms- This is the armorial and/ or other heraldic badges of an owner displayed on a cloak or shield.

Colors- The national and regimental or armorial flags carried by dismounted organizations (such as a color guard). Hence, the national color for Army and Marine Corps regiments is the U.S. flag. The terms also applies to the national ensign flown aboard a naval vessel.

Ensign- This is a special flag based on a country’s national flag and used exclusively on naval ships or merchant ships. The civil ensign is the merchant marine’s flag. The U.S. flag serves as a national flag, naval ensign, and civil ensign. Great Britain, on the other hand, has a white ensign for naval ships, a red ensign for merchant ships, and a blue ensign for merchant ships commanded by an officer in the Naval Reserve. Great Britain also has an ensign for the Royal Air Force and one for airports.

Mullet- This is a five-pointed star, representative of a knight’s spur.

Saltine- This is an x-shaped cross.

Storm Flag- This is the U.S. Flag which is flown at military installations during inclement weather. It is smaller that the U.S. flag that is usually at the installation.