Symbolism of Heraldry

Colors and Metals


  • Argent (white or silver): Peace and sincerity.
  • Azure (blue): Loyalty and truth.
  • Gules (red): Military fortitude and magnanimity.
  • Murray (sanguine): Not hasty in battle, and yet a victor.
  • Or (yellow or gold): Generosity.
  • Purpure (purple): Royal majesty, sovereignty and justice.
  • Sable (black): Constancy, sometimes grief.
  • Tenne (tawney): Worthy ambition.
  • Vert (green): Hope, joy and sometimes loyalty in love.


Heraldic Lines


  • Dancette: Water.
  • Embattled: Fire or the walls of a fortress or town.
  • Engrailed and Invected: Earth or land.
  • Indented: Fire.
  • Nebulee or Nebuly: The sea or water.
  • Ragulee or Raguly: Difficulties which have been encountered.


Ordinaries


  • Bar: For "one who sets the bar of conscience, religion and honor against angry passions.
  • Battune Sinister: Marks a royal descent that is barred by illegitimacy from succession to the throne.
  • Bend: Defense or protection.
  • Bordure or Border: Frequently adopted as a "difference" between relatives bearing the same arms.
  • Canton: Bearing of honor. When borne charged, it often contains some special symbols granted by the sovereign in reward for the performance of eminent service.
  • Chief: Dominion and authority.
  • Cross - Chevron: Protection.
  • Fess: Military belt or girdle of honor.
  • Flasques: Given by a king for virtue and learning, and especially for service in embassage.
  • Gyron: Unity.
  • Orle or Tressure: Preservation or protection.
  • Pale: Military strength and fortitude.
  • Palet: Same as Pale.
  • Pile: Same as Pale.
  • Quarter: Bearing of honor. Similar to the Canton.
  • Voiders: Given to gentlewomen who have deserved highly.


Common Charges


  • Alerion: Signifies one who having been maimed and lamed in war, was thus prevented from fully asserting his power.
  • Anchor: Succor in extremity and the Christian symbol of hope.
  • Angels, Cherubs and Seraphs: Dignity, glory and honor.
  • Annulet or Finger Ring: Fidelity.
  • Ant: Symbolizes a man of great labor, wisdom and providence.
  • Arm: A laborious and industrious person.
  • Arrows and Arrowheads: Martial readiness.
  • Axe: Execution of military duty.
  • Beacons or Cressets: One who is watchful for the commonwealth or who gave the signal in time of danger.
  • Bear: Ferocity in the protection of kindred.
  • Beaver: Industry and perseverance.
  • Bee: Well-governed industry.
  • Billets: Their first bearer was a man who obtained credence, knowledge and faith in his words and deeds, and who was secret in his affairs.
  • Blackamoor Head: Deeds of prowess in the Crusades.
  • Boar: A fierce combatant when at bay, and ceases fighting only with its life, and therefore may be properly applied as the armorial bearing of a warrior.
  • Bridge: Signifies a governor or magistrate.
  • Buckles: Victorious fidelity in authority.
  • Bull or Ox: Valor and magnanimity.
  • Camel: Docility, patience and indefatigable perseverance.
  • Cannon, Mortars, Cannon Balls, and Grenades: Well bestowed on those who have dared their terrors in sieges and battles.
  • Cat or Cat-A-Mountain: Liberty, vigilance, forecast and courage.
  • Catharine Wheel: Emblem of one who is prepared to undergo great trials for the Christian faith.
  • Celestial Crown: Heavenly reward.
  • Centuar: For those who have been eminent in the field.
  • Chains: A reward for acceptable or weighty service.
  • Chaplets and Wreaths: Granted for special service.
  • Clarion or Rest: Same as Trumpet.
  • Cock: Courage, always ready for battle, ready to fight to the death.
  • Cockatrice: Terror to all beholders.
  • Cornucopia: Bounty of Nature's gifts.
  • Crescent: Signifies one who has been enlightened and honored by the gracious aspect of his sovereign.
  • Crossed Thigh-bones: Mortality.
  • Crosses: Symbolic of some Christian experience or sentiment.
  • Crow: Signifies a settled habitation and a quiet life.
  • Crown: Royal or seigniorial authority.
  • Cubes, squares or dice: Constancy, wisdom, verity probity, and equity.
  • Cushions: Marks of authority.
  • Dolphin: Charity and a kind affection towards children.
  • Double Eagle and Eagle: Signifies a man of action, ever more occupied in high and weighty affairs, and one of lofty spirit, ingenious, speedy in apprehension and judicious in matters of ambiguity.
  • Dove: Loving constancy and peace.
  • Dragon: A most valiant defender of treasure.
  • Elephant: Courage and strength.
  • Escarbuncle: Supremacy.
  • Estoiles: Emblems of God's goodness or of some eminence in the first bearer above the ruder sort of men.
  • Eye: Providence in Government.
  • Falcon or Hawk: One eager or hot in the pursuit of an object much desired.
  • Feathers (usually ostrich): Willing obedience and serenity.
  • Fire: Zeal.
  • Flaming Heart: Ardent affection.
  • Foot: Same as leg.
  • Fox: One who will use all that he may posses of sagacity, wit or wisdom in his own defense.
  • Fret: Persuasion
  • Fusil: Travel and labour.
  • Fusil of Yarn: Negotiation.
  • Gannet: To subsist by the wings of his virtue and merit, having little land to rest upon.
  • Gauntlet: Signify a man armed for the performance of martial enterprise.
  • Goat: Emblem of that martial man who wins a victory by the employment rather of policy than valor.
  • Gold Roundles: One who has been found worthy of trust and treasure.
  • Gold Spur: Dignity of knighthood.
  • Goose and Duck: A man of many resources.
  • Grasshopper: Wisdom and nobility.
  • Griffin: Sets forth the property of a valorous soldier whose magnanimity is such that he will dare all dangers, and even death itself, rather than become captive.
  • Hand: Faith, sincerity and justice.
  • Hares and Rabbits: One who enjoys a peaceable and retired life.
  • Harp: Contemplation.
  • Harpy: Ferocity under provocation.
  • Hawks or Falcons Bells: One who feared not to signal his approach in either peace or war.
  • Heart: Charity, sincerity.
  • Hedgehog: Provident provider.
  • Heraldic Tiger: Same as Tiger.
  • Horns and Antlers: Strength and Fortitude.
  • Horse: Readiness for all employments for king and country.
  • Horse Shoe: Good luck.
  • House Snail: Deliberation and perseverance.
  • Human Head: Honor.
  • Hunting Horn: One who is fond of high pursuits.
  • Hydra: The conquest of a very powerful enemy.
  • Inkhorn: Same as pen.
  • Lamb: Gentleness and patience under suffering.
  • Leg: Strength, stability and expedition.
  • Leopard: Valiant and hardy warrior.
  • Lightning: The effecting of some weighty business with great clarity and force.
  • Lion: Deathless courage.
  • Lozenge: Honesty and constancy, also held to be a token of noble birth.
  • Lozenge: Same as Cubes.
  • Lyre: Same as harp.
  • Mermaid: Eloquence.
  • Millstones: The mutual converse of human society.
  • Moon: Serene power over mundane actions.
  • Mullet: Denotes some Divine quality bestowed from above.
  • Owl: One who is vigilant and of acute wit.
  • Panther: As a lion may be said to signify a brave man, so may a panther a beautiful woman, which, though fierce, is very tender and loving to her young, and will defend it with the hazard of her life.
  • Pastoral Crosier: The emblem of a shepherd's watchfulness over his flock, and denotes episcopal jurisdiction and authority.
  • Peacock: Beauty and pride of carriage.
  • Pegasus: Exceeding activity and energy of mind whereby one may mount to honour.
  • Pelican: Devoted and self-sacrificing charity.
  • Pen: Emblematic of the liberal art of writing and of learned employments.
  • Phoenix: Resurrection.
  • Pillar or Column: Fortitude and constancy.
  • Portcullis: Effectual protection in emergency.
  • Purse: A frank and liberal steward of the blessings that God has bestowed .
  • Ram: Authority.
  • Raven: One who, having derived little from his ancestors, has through Providence become the architect of his own fortunes or one of an enduring constancy of nature.
  • Red Hand: Usual mark for a baronet if borne on a small escutcheon.
  • Rhinoceros: Great ferocity when aroused.
  • Rocks: Safety, refuge and protection.
  • Saddles, Stirrups and Spurs: Preparedness for active service.
  • Scaling Ladder: One who was fearless in attacking.
  • Sceptre: Justice.
  • Scythe: Hope of a fruitful harvest of things hoped for.
  • Shacklebolt: Victory in war.
  • Shell, Escallop: One who has made long journeys or voyages to far countries, who had borne considerable naval command or who had gained great victories.
  • Shells, Other: Protection of Providence.
  • Shield: A defender.
  • Ship, Lumphiad or Galley: All such symbols would point to some notable expedition by sea, by which, perhaps, the first bearers had become famous.
  • Shoe: Same as Leg.
  • Sickle: Same as Scythe.
  • Silver Spur: An esquire.
  • Skulls: Mortality.
  • Snake: Wisdom.
  • Spear Heads or Pheons: Dexterity and nimbleness of wit to penetrate and understand matters of highest consequence.
  • Spear or Lance: Knightly service and devotion to honor.
  • Sphinx: Omniscience and secrecy.
  • Spider: Wisdom, labor and providence in all affairs.
  • Squirrel: Sylvan retirement being the delight of its bearer.
  • Stag, Hart, Buck, and Deer: Policy, Peace and Harmony.
  • Stork: Filial duty, emblem of a grateful man.
  • Sun: Glory and splendor.
  • Swallow: One who is prompt and ready in the dispatch of his business.
  • Swan: A lover of poetry and harmony.
  • Sword: Indicates the bearer to a just and generous pursuit of honor and virtue in warlike deeds.
  • Talbot, Mastiff and Greyhound: Courage, vigilancy and loyal fidelity.
  • Tiger: Great fierceness and valor when enraged to combat; one whose resentment will be dangerous if aroused.
  • Tortoise: Invulnerability to attack.
  • Tower or Castle: Grandeur and solidity. Sometimes granted to one who has held one for his king, or who has captured one by force or stratagem.
  • Trestles and stools: Hospitality.
  • Trident: Maritime dominion.
  • Trumpet: Ready for the fray.
  • Trunk of a Tree: An object of veneration.
  • Unicorn: Extreme courage.
  • Water Bougets: Conferred on those who had brought water to an army or besieged place.
  • Wheel: Fortune.
  • White Roundles: Generosity.
  • Wings: Celebrity, sometimes protection or coverture.
  • Wolf: Denotes valiant captains that do in the end gain their attempts after long sieges and hard enterprises. One whom it is dangerous to assail or thwart.

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