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Dictionary of Vexillology: F (Flag - Flag Mast)

Last modified: 2024-06-01 by rob raeside
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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1) Generically, any piece of cloth (occasionally paper, plastic or metal) usually with provision for attaching by one edge to a staff or halyard, generally (but not exclusively) intended to fly freely in the wind, and which by displaying the colours and/or the charges upon it, to act as a mark of identity, rallying point or signal.
2) Specifically, the term is employed in opposition (by use, custom, tradition or shape) to the more specific descriptions – such as (for example) colour, banner, ensign jack or pennant as defined herein - see the entries under ‘ensign’, as well as ‘colour’, ‘jack’ and ‘pennant 2)’ with its following notes.
3) In British RN and some other usage, the term used (often in signalling) to describe the authority/office of an admiral in command – see ‘flag officer 2)’ (also ‘flag of command 1)’).
4) See ‘flag down, to’.

Australia ensign Norway jack Arkansas
Civil Ensign of Australia (fotw); Naval Jack of Norway (fotw); Flag of the State of Arkansas, US (fotw)  

See ‘flag law’.

In US Navy and some other usage, the title carried by the aide to a flag officer – the loop or loop – but see ‘flag lieutenant’ and the note below (also ‘aiguillette’ and ‘flag officer 3)’).

Please note that this appointment received its nickname – the “loop” – from the aiguillette (in gold and blue cord with tassels) worn from the left shoulder by such officers.

national arms of Peru

A term used when the arms that appear on a flag are officially different from the relevant national or provincial coat of arms or emblem - see ‘flag emblem’ (see also ‘armorial bearings’, ‘greater arms’, ‘lesser arms’, ‘middle arms’ and ‘state arms’ under ‘arms’ plus ‘coat of arms’).

flag arms of Peru national arms of Peru national arms of Kenya national flag of Kenya
The State Flag and National Arms of Peru (fotw); National Arms and National Flag of Kenya (fotw)

See ‘lapel flag 1)’.

flag badge

In US Naval usage, a colloquial term for the bridge locker in which signal flags and ensigns etc are stored (see also ‘flags 1)’ and ‘signal flag’).

1) One who carries any sub-national or national flag when it is mounted on a hand-held staff (see also ‘flag carrier’, ‘national flag’, ‘staff’ and ‘sub-national flag’).
2) See ‘colour bearer’ and ‘standard bearer 1)’.

A decorative band worn around the neck (often in national colours) or a leather strap worn around bot the waist and neck, with a supporting socket into which the bottom end (or foot) of the staff is fitted, and which assists a marching standard/colour bearer to support its weight – a colour belt or sling (see also ‘colour bearer’, ‘pike’, ‘staff 2)’ and ‘standard bearer 1)’).

[colour belt example]
Flag Belt According to Spanish Regulations (Reglamento de Banderas Actualizado)

A collection of flag images and/or of flag information illustrated with such images, that is published in book form or as a loose-leaf folder (see also ‘flag chart’ and ‘flag plate’).

[flag book example] [flag book example]
Pages from the Album des Pavillons (

The wanton destruction of a flag by public burning, usually (but not exclusively) for political motives - but see also ‘rules of preservation and disposal’ in ‘Appendix II’.

[flag burning example]

See ‘canton flag’.

provincial arms of Bremen Germany
National flag of Tuvalu (fotw)

In British RN, USN and some other naval usage, the Captain in command of any vessel carrying a flag officer - see ‘flagship’ and the notes below (also ‘flag officer 1)’, ‘flag officer 2)’ and ‘flag lieutenant’).

An admiral does not command the ship that flies his flag, but has an officer under him – the flag captain as defined above – who does (see also ‘flag of command 1)’).
In British RN usage before 1958, this term would also have included those officers in command of any vessel carrying a first class commodore, however, that rank is currently in abeyance and a commodore (formerly a commodore of the second class) now commands the ship himself - see ‘in abeyance’.

1) An airline – and in the past also a shipping line – that is considered to represent the nation concerned and whose aircraft will usually carry a representation of the national flag (see also ‘flag bearer 1)’ and ‘national flag’).
2) An airline or shipping line whose aircraft or ships are registered in a given country and entitled to fly or display its flag.

flag carrier
A Jumbo Jet of British Airways (Wikipedia)

1) See ‘case 1)’.
2) In US usage a triangular case designed to hold a folded flag secure – a commemorative flag case (see also ‘flag folding’ and ‘pall flag’).

A charge placed specifically on the field of a flag (see also ‘charge’).

A collection of flag images produced on a single sheet, that is displayed fully opened out and often rolled up or folded for storage (see also ‘flag book’ and ‘flag plate’).

[flag book example]
Flags of Europe

A set of protocols to govern the correct and respectful usage of the national flag. In some countries these are enforceable by law, but in others they remain recommendations only – see Appendix II (also ‘flag etiquette’, ‘flag law’, ‘rules of respect’ and ‘position of honour’).

1) A holiday, commemorative day or other period of time for the affirmation of patriotic values expressed in and through the national flag (see also ‘flag flying days’ and ‘national flag’).
2) In UK usage, the term that describes a charity event during which donations are acknowledged by the receipt of a paper flag (see also ‘flag flying days’ and ‘lapel flag 2)’).

A competition (either official or unofficial) that invites designs from which a new or replacement flag may be selected - usually by a committee appointed for that purpose ( see also ‘ausflag’ and ‘flag proposal’).

1949 Malaysian flag proposal 1949 Malaysian flag proposal 1949 Malaysian flag proposal
Three Rejected Entries in the Design Competition for a National Flag of Malaysia, 1949 (fotw)

In the British Royal Navy and in some others, an (appropriate) metal disc displayed on boats carrying an officer of flag rank to indicate whether that officer expects full ceremonial passing honours, or whether they are proceeding informally and only require normal side party salutes (see also ‘boat flag 3)’, ‘flag officer’ and ‘royal plate’).

flag disc
Alert and Salute only; Courtesy Salute Only, RN (Graham Bartram)

The often legal requirement for shippers to choose the national flag carrier, airline or shipping company over others (particularly but not exclusively foreign lines) when shipping goods or transporting people (see also ‘flag carrier’).

(v) To signal a vehicle to stop or slow down as a warning of danger or obstruction on a road or railway, by waving a (usually) red flag, slowly up and down, or by using only the hand by day or torches by night in similar fashion (see also 'flag').

A term used when the emblem that appears on a flag is officially different from the relevant national or provincial emblem (although it may contain an element or elements from that emblem) – see ‘emblem, state or national’ (also ‘emblem 2)’, ‘fin flash’, and ‘flag arms’).

flag emblem   flag emblem  flag emblem
National Flag with flag Emblem, Zimbabwe (fotw); Flag emblem, Uganda (fotw); National Flag with flag Emblem, Mozambique (fotw)

The international customs applicable to the display of flags when flying together – see ‘Appendix II’ and 'rules of etiquette' (also ‘flag code’, ‘flag law’ and ‘position of honour’).

1) The term – and a translation of the German flaggenwechsel – which may be used to describe the point during the fitting out of a vessel when the builder’s house flag is replaced with that of its new owners (see also ‘launching flags’).
2) See ‘souvenir flags 1)’.

A group of flags that share a common heritage or feature, usually shown in either the colours used or the design employed, or in both – see ‘pan-African Colours’, ‘pan-Arab Colours’ and ‘pan-Slavic Colours’ (also ‘core flag’, ‘differenced’, ‘Dutch colours 1))’ and ‘Garvey colours 1)’).

Ecuador Venezuela Colombia
National Flag of
Ecuador (fotw); Civil Flag/Ensign of Venezuela (fotw); National Flag of Colombia (fotw)

An official list of occasions upon which flags must be flown, generally (but not exclusively) from public buildings (see also ‘flag day 1)’).

Please note that the list of flag flying days usually refers only to the relevant national flag, but that there are several exceptions.

Specifically in US and some other - particularly (but not exclusively) military and naval - usage, the precisely prescribed and ceremonial folding of the national flag or ensign for presentation and/or storage (see also ‘flag case 2)’ and ‘pall flag’).

[folding the US flag]

In South American usage and in some others, the phrases that may be used when the design of a flag, or of any element thereon, is orientated so that it appears horizontal when displayed from a diagonally mounted or held staff, (usually but not invariably) for indoor use or when carried over the shoulder on parade – a tilted flag, a diagonal, oblique or slanted display design or flag but see ‘rotated’ (also ‘indoor flag’ and ‘parade flag 1)’).

[Pont-à-Celles] [Pont-à-Celles]
Flag of the Chairman of the Joint Armed Forces Staff, Peru; Flag of the Army, Bolivia – Both For Slanted Display (fotw & CS)

See ‘width 1)’.

[flag height]

See ‘signal hoist’.

[flag hoist]  [flag hoist]  [flag hoist]
GN2 (Golf-Novmber-2) in The International Code of Signal Flags or “I will take off persons” (fotw)

The legal means, by which any constituted authority establishes, regulates, defines or amends a flag - flag legislation or a flag act (see also ‘Appendix II’, ‘executive order’, ‘flag code’, ‘flag etiquette’, ‘official flag 1)’, ‘precedence’, ‘presidential decree’, ‘position of honour’, ‘royal decree’, ‘royal order in council’, ‘presidential decree’, ‘royal order in council’, ‘specification sheet’, ‘type flag’ and ‘warrant’).

In British RN and some other usage, the title carried by the aide to a flag officer - but see ‘flag adjutant’ (also ‘flag captain’ and ‘flag officer 2)’).

[flag lieutenant]

Please note that the title derives from that officer’s former principal responsibilities (now superseded by modern communications methods) for the handling of an admiral’s flag signal traffic - see ‘signal flag’ (also ‘yeoman of signals’).

In British RN and some other usage, the area in which signal flags, flags of command and ensigns etc., are stored aboard ship (see also ‘bunting tosser’, flags 1)’, ‘signal flag’ and ‘yeoman of signals’).

See ‘flag pole’ (also ‘mast 1)’, ‘pole mast’, ‘staff 1)’, ‘staff 2)’ and ‘stayed mast’).

Please note that the terms flagstaff, flag mast and flag pole may be considered as interchangeable, but that ‘mast‘ and ‘staff’ when used alone have specific meanings.

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