List of heraldic charges

This is a list of heraldic charges. It does not cover those charges which are geometrical patterns and resemble partitions of the field; for these, see Ordinary (heraldry).

Fox-Davies (1909) in his presentation of common heraldic charges divides them into the following categories (not including ordinaries and subordinaries): the human figure, the heraldic lion, beasts (mammals), monsters, birds, fish, reptiles, insects, plants (trees, leaves, fruits and flowers), and "inanimate objects".


Blason Guillaume de Haer (selon Gelre)
a shield with three lozenges.

A number of simple geometric shapes have traditionally, and somewhat arbitrarily, bee classified among the so-called subordinaries. (All other mobile charges are called common charges.)

  • lozenge
    • fusil (a narrow lozenge; the term originally referred to a cone-shaped pulley, from Latin fūsus, "spindle")
    • mascle (lozenge voided; related to "mesh")
    • rustre (lozenge pierced; from German Raute, "rhombus")[1]
  • billet[1][2] (a rectangle)
  • annulet (a ring)
  • roundel, but different tinctures have different names: for example roundels argent are called plates. A roundel barry wavy azure and argent is called a fountain.
  • label: commonly a mark of difference, but also appears as an independent charge.
  • fret: originally woven from three bendlets (dexter) and three bendlets sinister, now usually a single bendlet each way interwoven with a mascle.[1]

Human figures

Manesse-Wappen ZW
Coat of arms for Manesse (Zürich armorial, c. 1340)

Parts of human bodies

Coa Hungary Town Komádi
Coat of arms of the Hungarian town Komádi.
  • The head
  • The hand, or hand and arm, is the most common part of the human body to be a charge.[1]
  • The ear[4]
  • Feet[5]
  • Teeth
  • Tongue[6]
  • The heart, even when blazoned "a human heart", always appears like the heart in a deck of cards rather than a natural human heart.
  • A "dug" or woman's breast "distilling drops of milk" famously appears in the arms of the Dodge family, and appeared for a time on the badge of cars made by the Dodge Automotive company.[7]
  • Beards[8]
  • Testicles: the Neapolitan family of Coglione bore per fess argent and gules, three pairs of testicles counterchanged.[9] The similar coat of the Counts Colleoni of Milan is sometimes blazoned Per pale argent and gules, three hearts reversed counterchanged.[10]


Any animal can be a heraldic charge, although more traditional ones vary in the exactitude with which they resemble the creature as found in nature. Animals depicted naturally are either described as natural or using the scientific nomenclature.

Predatory beasts

Coat of arms of Finland
Lion as a primary charge in the coat of arms of Finland.


Other mammals

Reptiles and amphibians


Insects include:


Complete Guide to Heraldry Fig314
A sea-lion, illustrated in A Complete Guide to Heraldry (1909).
  • Sphinx: depicted with the head and breasts of a woman.
  • Griffin, combining the head (but with ears), chest, wings and forelegs of the eagle with the hindquarters and legs of a lion (the male griffin lacks wings and his body is scattered with spikes). See List of griffins as mascots and in heraldry.
  • Unicorn, having a horse's body, deer's legs, goat's beard, and often a lion's tail
  • The hippogriff is like the griffin except that the lion parts of the griffin are replaced by those of a horse.
  • Harpy
  • Theow is a wolf-like creature but with cloven hooves.
  • The "seahorse" (hippocampus) is depicted as half horse and half fish
  • The sea-lion is a combination of a lion and a fish.[1]
  • Any combination of parts of other animals, e.g. winged reindeer, is possible.[1]


By far the most frequent heraldic bird is the eagle. A variant is the alerion, without beak or feet, seen in the arms of the duchy of Lorraine (of which it is not quite an anagram).

Also very frequent is the martlet, a conventional swallow depicted without feet or the French variant the merlette, which also omits the beak.

Fish and creatures of the sea

"Fish" are sometimes only described as "a fish", but the species is often named:

Parts of animals

Parts of creatures may also be used as charges.



Trees and their fruits

Trees appear as eradicated (showing the roots) or couped. Fruit can appear on a tree, or by itself. Also, leaves and branches appear.

Other flora

Wappen at grossarl
Alder in the coat of arms of Grossarl, Austria.

Trees are sometimes merely blazoned as "a tree" but specific trees are mentioned in blazon.

A small group of trees is blazoned as a hurst, grove, wood or thicket.[2]

Grain crops and vegetables

Orges-coat of arms
Barley (French orge) in the arms of Orges, Switzerland
  • Wheat occurs in the form of "garbs" or sheaves and as ears, though sometimes garbs represent another crop
  • Ears of rye are depicted exactly as wheat, except the ears droop down.
  • "Ginny wheat" or "guinea wheat" (like wheat but with a fatter ear) also exists[25]
  • Cabbage[26]
  • Leek[27]

Inanimate charges

Regarding "inanimate objects", Fox-Davies (1909:281) comments:

"one can safely say that there is scarcely an object under the sun which has not at some time or other been introduced into a coat of arms or crest. One cannot usefully make a book on armory assume the character of a general encyclopedia on useful knowledge, and reference will only be made in this chapter to a limited number, including those which from frequent usage have obtained a recognised heraldic character."


Originally representing the Christian cross used as field sign and standard during the Crusades, heraldic crosses diversified into many variants in the late medieval to early modern period, the most common (besides the plain "Greek cross") being the cross potent, cross pattée, cross fleury, cross moline, cross crosslet (etc.).


Langmantel Siebmacher207 - Augsburg
Langenmantel vom RR family coat of arms as shown in Siebmachers Wappenbuch (1605).

Lettering in coats of arms are usually placed in the motto, not in the heraldic shield as a charge. However, a tradition of introducing individual letters as heraldic charges on the basis of acrophony originates in the 15th to 16th century, primarily in personal and municipial heraldry, and with some frequency in the modern period, appearing more often on the continent than in British heraldry where letters as charges have traditionally been discouraged. Fox-Davies (1909:281) regarding letters of the alphabet as heraldic charges:

"Instances of these are scarcely common, but the family of Kekitmore[28] may be adduced as bearing 'Gules, three S's or,' while Bridlington Priory had for arms 'Per pale, sable and argent, three B's countercharged.' [...] Corporate arms (in England) afford an instance of alphabetical letters in the case of the B's on the shield of Bermondsey."

One of the earliest instances of the use of letters as heraldic charges is that of the Langenmantel family of Augsburg. Rüdiger I Langenmantel (d. 1342), one of the leading figures of the Augsburg patriciate during the first four decades of the 14th century, is the founder of the "Langenmantel vom RR" branch of the family, derived from his coat of arms showing two letters R (for his given name), shown addorsed (as mirror images).[29]

Religious symbolism:


Ships and boats


Flag of Edinburgh
Edinburgh Flag



Arms of Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Coat of arms of Albert, Prince Consort, showing the harp of Ireland within the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom in the first and fourth quarters and a crancelin (a crown of rue, an ornamental plant) as a part of the Coat of arms of Saxony in the second and third.

Musical instruments include:


Arms of the united provinces
Arms of the Republic of the United Provinces: Gules, a crowned lion Or, armed and langued azure, holding a sword and a sheaf of arrows


Clothing and other personal items


Blason ville fr Bonsmoulins orme
The arms of Bonsmoulins with a millwheel in the base
Coat of Arms of Japanese Emperor (Knight of the Garter Variant)
Western arms of the Akihito as a Knight of the Garter


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles (1909). A complete guide to heraldry (1909). New York : Dodge. Retrieved 2013-08-21.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  3. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  6. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  7. ^ Martin Goldstraw. "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  8. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  9. ^ "Sex in Heraldry". 1997-06-26. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  10. ^ John Woodward and George Burnett, A Treatise on Heraldry, British and Foreign, page 203
  11. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  12. ^ Retrieved 2018-05-13. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  14. ^ From "Jack of Naples" (Jac-a-Napes), later (early modern period) reanalyzed as "jack-an-apes", taking "apes" as "ape, monkey". Monkeys were one of many exotic goods from Naples exhibited in England, hence acquired the nickname Jack a Napes (first attested 1450).
  15. ^ Charles Norton Elvin, Dictionary of Heraldry, 1889, plate 29, nos. 57–59. The monkey as heraldic animal remained comparatively rare, but it is on record from as early as the 14th century, as in the Affenstein crest from the Zürich armorial (c. 1340).
  16. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  17. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  18. ^ a b c d e f Jacqueline Fearn. Discovering Heraldry. Shire Publications. pp. 40–41.
  19. ^ Gough, Henry (1894). A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry. J. Parker. p. 451. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
  20. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  21. ^ Gerard Michon (2004-06-19). "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  22. ^ Balfour Paul, James (1893). An Ordinary of Arms Contained in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland. William Green and Sons. pp. 108–109.
  23. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  24. ^ "" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  25. ^ 2006-06-12. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  26. ^ Retrieved 2018-05-27. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  27. ^ "" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  28. ^ John Guillim, A Display of Heraldry (1780), p. 295.
  29. ^ Ernst Heinrich Kneschke, Neues allgemeines deutsches Adelslexikon, vol. 5, Leipzig, (1864),388f.
  30. ^ A Complete Guide to Heraldry by A.C. Fox-Davies and J.P. Brook-Little (1969 edition), p. 212.
  31. ^ In the arms of the 91st Bombardment Group of the United States Air Force.Air Force Combat Units of World War II. p. 158.
  32. ^ Shown in the coats of arms of several units of the United States Air Force, such as the 508th Fighter Group.Air Force Combat Units of World War II. p. 371.
  33. ^ Air Force Combat Units of World War II, p.246
  34. ^ Air Force Combat Units of World War II. p. 187.
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^ Journal of the British Archaeological Association, Volume 13. British Archaeological Association., 1857 - Archaeology, Page 119
  40. ^ Balfour Paul, p. 41
  41. ^
  42. ^ Air Force Combat Units of World War I, p.154
  43. ^ Tsubouchi, David Hiroshi (Individual), Public Register of Arms, Flags, and Badges of Canada

External links

Attitude (heraldry)

In heraldry, an attitude is the position in which an animal, bird, fish, human or human-like being is emblazoned as a charge, supporter or crest. Many attitudes apply only to predatory beasts and are exemplified by the beast most frequently found in heraldry—the lion. Some other terms apply only to docile animals, such as the doe (usually blazoned as "hind"). Other attitudes, such as volant, describe the positions of birds, mostly exemplified by the bird most frequently found in heraldry—the eagle. The term naiant (swimming), however, is usually reserved for fish but may also apply to swans, ducks or geese. Birds are often further described by the exact position of their wings. The term segreant is usually applied to the griffin, but this approximation of rampant which is more appropriate for them has also been applied to the dragon.

Additionally, there are positions applying to direction, to indicate variations from the presumed position of any charge. Animals and animal-like creatures are presumed to be shown in profile, facing dexter (the viewer's left), and humans and human-like beings are presumed to be shown affronté (facing the viewer), unless otherwise specified in the blazon.

Charge (heraldry)

In heraldry, a charge is any emblem or device occupying the field of an escutcheon (shield). This may be a geometric design (sometimes called an ordinary) or a symbolic representation of a person, animal, plant, object or other device. In French blazon, the ordinaries are called pièces while other charges are called meubles (i.e. "[the] mobile [ones]").

The term charge can also be used as a verb; for example, if an escutcheon depicts three lions, then it is said to be charged with three lions; similarly, a crest or even a charge itself may be "charged", such as a pair of eagle wings charged with trefoils (e.g. Coat of arms of Brandenburg). It is important to distinguish between the ordinaries and divisions of the field, as these typically follow similar patterns, such as a shield divided "per chevron", as distinct from being charged with a chevron.

While thousands of objects found in nature, mythology or technology have appeared in armory, there are several charges (such as the cross, the eagle and the lion) which have contributed to the distinctive flavour of heraldic design. Only these and a few other notable charges (crowns, stars, keys, etc.) are discussed in this article, but a more exhaustive list will be found at List of heraldic charges.

In addition to being shown in the regular way charges may be umbrated (this is to be distinguished from them being blazoned as detailed highly unusual description of them as being shaded, and are rather irregularly sometimes stated to be in silhouette or are, more ambiguously, confusingly and unhelpfully, blazoned as futuristic, stylized or simplified. There are also several units in the United States Air Force with charges blazoned as "mythical", although this conception is meaningless and irrelevant to the conception of heraldry; neither does it affect the appearance of these charges.


Heraldry () is a broad term, encompassing the design, display, and study of armorial bearings (known as armory), as well as related disciplines, such as vexillology, together with the study of ceremony, rank, and pedigree. Armory, the best-known branch of heraldry, concerns the design and transmission of the heraldic achievement. The achievement, or armorial bearings usually includes a coat of arms on an shield, helmet, and crest, together with any accompanying devices, such as supporters, badges, heraldic banners, and mottoes.Although the use of various devices to signify individuals and groups goes back to antiquity, both the form and use of such devices varied widely, and the concept of regular, hereditary designs, constituting the distinguishing feature of heraldry, did not develop until the High Middle Ages. It is very often claimed that the use of helmets with face guards during this period made it difficult to recognize one's commanders in the field when large armies gathered together for extended periods, necessitating the development of heraldry as a symbolic language but there is very little actual support for this view.The beauty and pageantry of heraldic designs allowed them to survive the gradual abandonment of armour on the battlefield during the seventeenth century. Heraldry has been described poetically as "the handmaid of history", "the shorthand of history", and "the floral border in the garden of history". In modern times, individuals, public and private organizations, corporations, cities, towns, and regions use heraldry and its conventions to symbolize their heritage, achievements, and aspirations.

History of heraldry

Heraldry is the system of visual identification of rank and pedigree which developed in the European High Middle Ages, closely associated with the courtly culture of chivalry, Latin Christianity, the Crusades, feudal aristocracy, and monarchy of the time. Heraldic tradition fully developed in the 13th century, and it flourished and developed further during the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Originally limited to nobility, heraldry is adopted by wealthy commoners in the Late Middle Ages (Burgher arms). Specific traditions of Ecclesiastical heraldry also develop in the late medieval period. Coats of arms of noble families, often after their extinction, becomes attached to the territories they used to own, giving rise to municipal coats of arms by the 16th century.

Western heraldry spread beyond its core territory of Latin Christendom in the 17th century, Western heraldic traditions being adopted in the Russian Empire.

With the decline of European monarchies in favour of Republicanism in the 19th to 20th centuries, heraldic tradition declined in importance, but modern national flags and national emblems adopted in the 19th and 20th century still frequently use elements inherited from heraldic tradition.

List of symbols

This is a list of graphical signs, icons, and symbols.



See also:

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white rendering)
See also

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