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Dictionary of Vexillology: P (Pierced - Ployé)

Last modified: 2024-06-01 by rob raeside
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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1) In vexillology, a heraldically derived term sometimes used to describe a flag with a plain border around a plain centre panel – for example a white flag pierced red as shown below (see also ‘border’, ‘panel’ and ‘plain 2)’).
2) In heraldry the term used when a charge (such as a quatrefoil or mullet) has a hole in its centre (see also ‘quatrefoil 2’, ‘star 2)’ and ‘voided’).
3) See ‘transfixed’.

pierced example pierced example pierced example
Flag of Châbles, Switzerland (Wikipedia); Arms of Heřmanice, Czechia (fotw); Flag of Ra's al-Khaymah, UAE (fotw)

In heraldry see ‘rowel’ (also ‘pierced 2)’).

pierced example
Flag of Font, Switzerland (fotw)

See ‘truck 2)’.

1) In British and some other military usage the staff upon which an infantry colour is carried (see also 'colour 2)' and ‘colours 2)
2) See ‘staff 2)’).

Push of Pike
“Push of Pike”, Battle of Rocroi 1643

Please note that the term is derived from the long-shafted spear with which a proportion of infantry were formerly armed, and whilst the term is still applied, the staff may often no longer have a spear point, but may carry a finial of some other design – see ‘finial’.

1) On flags, a triangular charge whose base generally occupies the full length or width of a flag, and whose apex touches the centre of its opposite edge - a triangle throughout. When the apex is on the fly it may be called a simple pile, with the apex on the hoist a reversed pile, with the apex on the top edge an upright pile and with the apex on the bottom edge of the flag an inverted pile (see also ‘reversed’, ‘triangle’) and ‘upright’).
2) In heraldry, an elongated triangular charge which is less than the full width of a shield or banner of arms (although it is sometimes stipulated that the pile should be one-third the width of that shield or banner of arms), is occasionally wavy or embowed and is generally (although not invariably) placed with the point downwards – but see ‘per chevron’ and its following note (also ‘chapé’, ‘embowed’, the note following ‘per pile’, ‘reversed 2)’ and ‘wavy’).
3) On obsolete military colours, one of four triangular charges that narrow from a flag’s corner towards its centre – wedges - see ‘pile(s) wavy 1)’ (also ‘colour 2)’ and ‘colours 2)’).

pile pile pile
Presidential Flag, Namibia (fotw); Flag of Brinches, Portugal (fotw); Flag of Paszowice, Poland (fotw)

Please note with regard to 1), however, that on flags a triangular charge whose apex and/or base do not touch opposite edges of the flag should be considered a triangle - see ‘triangle’.

See ‘pile 2)’ and ‘embowed’ (also the note following ‘per pile’).

[pile embowed]
Flag of Oberdorf, Switzerland (fotw)

See ‘pile 2)’, ‘reversed 2)’ and ‘per chevron’ with its following note (also ‘chapé’ and the note following ‘per pile’).

[pile reversed] [pile reversed]
Arms and Flag of Špišić Bukovica, Croatia (fotw)

1) On flags, particularly (but not exclusively) obsolete military colours, one or more wavy edged (that is flame-like) triangles which generally narrow from the corner or corners towards the centre – a wedge wavy - see ‘pile 3)’ (see also ‘wavy flame’ and ‘flammes 1)’).
2) In heraldry, see ‘pile 2)’ and ‘wavy’.

[pile wavy]  [pile wavy]  [pile wavy]
Major’s Colour of the Royal Guards 1685, England (fotw); Colour of the 27th Regiment of Foot c1750, Prussia (fotw); Flag of Øyestad, Norway (fotw)

A small triangular pennant, or occasionally a handwaver size flag, purchased as the souvenir of a spiritual (usually Roman Catholic) pilgrimage, religious festival or special place of worship, and often made from paper (see also ‘handwaver’).

A term used in (largely) Iberian heraldic blazoning to describe a stone pillar, and almost invariably set upon a step or steps - a term, as far as can be discovered, not used in English heraldry.

Pillory Pillory Pillory
Flag of Canas de Senhorim, Portugal (fotw); Flag of El Berrueco, Spain (fotw); Flag of Paçó, Portugal (fotw)

That flag which is flown by a vessel requiring or carrying a pilot, now either G for Golf (if requiring a pilot) or H for Hotel (if under pilotage) from the International Code of Signal Flags  (see also ‘International Code of Signal Flags’ and ‘signal flag’).

Signal flag Gold Signal flag Hotel
Signal Flag Golf (fotw); Signal Flag Hotel (fotw)

Please note however, that many countries originally had their own designs for pilot flags, of which the UK version - that is the national flag with a white border - is typical of the type and a rare survival - see pilot jack (also ‘civil jack’ under ‘jack’). See supplemental note:

Belgium former pilot flag  Netherlands former pilot flag  Germany former pilot flag
Former Pilot Flag of Belgium (fotw); Former Pilot Flag of The Netherlands (fotw); Pilot Flag of Germany 1935 – 1945 (fotw)

In UK usage, the flag introduced in 1823 as the signal for a pilot and replaced (in that role) c1970 by the ICS flags listed under “pilot flag”; it is now considered an alternative term for the British civil jack (see ‘civil jack’ under ‘jack’, ‘Marryat’s code’, ‘pilot flag’ plus its following note and ‘union jack’).

[a pilot jack] [a pilot jack]
UK Pilot Jacks de jure and de facto (fotw & Clay Moss)

Please note that the date upon which this flag began to be flown as a civil jack is unknown, but possibly as early as the mid-19th Century.

A triangular pennant used by the authorized representative of a Scottish clan chief in that person’s absence. It has a solid field and is 0.60 x 1.35m long, it is generally charged with the grantee’s crest within an annulet or ring (ensigned with a coronet or bonnet dependent upon rank), and the grantee’s motto – a pensel or pincel (see also ‘annulet’, ‘ensigned’, ‘guidon 3)’,  'pennon 3)’, ‘ring’ and ‘standard 4)’).

[a pinsel]
Pinsel of the Clan Fraser (Fraserchief)

See ‘bannerette’.

[a pipe banner]
Pipe Banner/Bannerette, 7th Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Gurkha Rifles, UK (fotw)

A term for that edging which emphasizes any raised detail on a flag or emblem - but see ‘raised detail’.  

[a pipe banner]
Flag Patch, German c1939 (

See 'jolly roger'.

[pirate flag]
Pirate flag (fotw)

1) On a flag see ‘honour point 1)’.
2) Of a flag or coat of arms see ‘position of honour’.

1) See ‘undefaced’.
2) On flags, the term that is applied to a flag which has a monocoloured field, or to a bicolour, tricolour, triband or multi-stripe which carries no charges other than its stripes, or to an undecorated border or panel consisting of a single colour (see also ‘bicolour 1) & 2)’, ‘border’, ‘charge 1) & 2)’, ‘monocolour’, ‘multi-stripe’, ‘panel’, ‘pierced 1)’, ‘triband 1) & 2)’ and ‘tricolour 1) ;& 2)’).
3) In heraldry the term is sometimes used to describe a simple charge when it is displayed in the same quarter of a coat of arms with another which is decorated or in some way altered – for example a plain chevron may be surrounded by an engrailed border (see also ‘bordure’, ‘charge 1)’, ‘coat of arms 2)’, ‘chevron 1)’, ‘engrailed’ and ‘quarter 2)’).

[plain flag] [plain flag] [plain flag]
Reserve Ensign, UK (fotw); State Arms of Slovenia (fotw); Civil Flag of El Salvador (fotw)

A cross whose arms are straight-sided, of equal width and free of any further detailing or decoration – see ‘cross 1)’, ‘Greek cross’ and ‘Latin cross’ (also ‘Scandinavian cross’).

[plain cross] [plain cross] [plain cross]
Flag of the Military Order of Malta (fotw); National Flag of Tonga (fotw); Flag of Thunstetten, Switzerland (fotw)

See ‘antique crown 2)’.

[Plantagenet crown]
Richard ll, King of England 1377 – 1399 (Wikipedia)

Please note that the Plantagenets were the ruling house of England from 1154 – 1485 (Henry ll – Richard lll).

A heraldic term for a number of white or silver discs – roundels argent – but see ‘quinas’ (also ‘bezant’, ‘hurt’, pomme(s)’, roundel 3)’ and ‘torteau’).

Ichtegem, Belgium Portugal 1185 Koelkelare, Belgium
Flag of Ichtegem, Belgium (fotw); Flag of Portugal 1185 (fotw); Flag of Koekelare, Belgium (fotw)

Please note that in strict English heraldic usage this term should only be employed when the charge described is white/silver (“argent”) - see ‘tinctures’.

In largely (although not entirely) Continental European heraldry, the representation of a traditional agricultural implement – see the note below and ‘ploughshare’.

plough plough plough
Flag of Balsfjord, Norway (fotw); Flag of Husum, Germany (fotw); Flag of Faia, Portugal (fotw)

Please note that ploughs (or parts thereof) are rare (but not unknown) in English heraldry, and that depictions of the implement may occasionally be seen on flags from non-European countries.

Flag of Guangdong Peasants Association c1925, China (fotw)

In largely (but not entirely) Continental European heraldry a term used for the (variously detailed) cutting blade of an agricultural implement – a plough share - see ‘plough’ (also ‘hafted’).

ploughshare ploughshare ploughshare
Flag of Rothrist, Switzerland (fotw); Flag of Čađavica, Croatia (fotw); Flag of Wanzwil, Switzerland (fotw)

An alternative heraldic term to embowed - see ‘embowed’.

Flag of Fischbach-Goslikon, Switzerland (fotw)

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