Banner

A flag-like cloth draped between two points, usually carrying a message or displaying a large symbol. Poetically any flag carried by the followers of a cause.

Battle Flag

A flag carried by land forces for ease of recognition in battle. Units are often given distinctive flags with charges from their commander.

Break Out a Flag

To unfurl a flag which has been rolled and tied in a way that a sharp tug on the halyard will cause it to open out.

Bunting

Strong, loosely woven material used for making flags.

Canton

The four quarters of a flag are referred to as quarters, however "canton" usually refers to the upper section of the hoist, that is the upper left quarter.

Ceremonial Doors

The large ceremonial doors of the Massachusetts State House are traditionally opened for three occasions:

  1. the reception of a national head of state;
  2. a governor leaving at the end of his or her term;
  3. the return of a battle flag from service in the field

Colors

The national or regimental flags carried by dismounted units, this term is usually used in the plural even for one flag.

Dipping

A means for saluting with a hand carried flag. The flag staff is lowered to an almost horizontal position so that the flag nearly touches the ground, then it is returned briskly to its original position.

Field

The field or ground of a flag comprises the background which a coat of arms or the canton may contrast.

Finial

An ornament affixed to the top of a flag pole, such as cross, or a metal eagle in the United States.

Flag staff

Usually a wooden staff which is carried with a flag attached.

Flagpole

A post or pole set in the ground or attached to buildings from which flags are displayed. This contrasts with flag staffs which are carried , or masts which are used on ships or at naval facilities.

Fly

The free vertical half of the flag , also the horizontal length of the flag.

Halyard

Halyards are the ropes used to hoist or lower the flag.

Hoist

Used as a noun, it is term for the vertical half of the flag closest to the staff. It also refers to the vertical height of the flag.

Mast

Masts are used to display flags on ships or at naval stations.

Obverse

The face of the flag seen when its hoist edge is to the viewer's left. (See also "reverse")

Regimental Color

The distinctive flag carried by land forces which identifies the military unit -- such flags usually note regimental information and where their place of origin.

Reverse

The face of the flag seen when the flag's hoist edge is to the viewers right. (See also "obverse")

Semaphore

A system of signaling by means of two flags held in various positions.

Sleeve

A section of material along a flags hoist through which a staff may be inserted to carry it.

Staff

A wooden pole used to carry a flag. These were called pikes (for infantry units) and lances (for cavalry units) during the Civil War.

Standard

Flag carried by mounted units, or their equivalent. In mediaeval times, standards represented royalty using their colors, coats of arms, or mottos.

Streamer

A ribbon or strip of cloth attached to the staff of a unit's flag recognizing their distinguished conduct in battle.

Truck

The ornament just beneath the finial at the flag poles top, which is usually fitted with a pulley through which the halyards are pulled.

Union

A part of the flag which represents the union of countries, states, or people. The canton of the U.S. flag uses fifty stars representing states to represent unity.

Vexillology

The study of flags and their history. The word is taken from "vexillum " which was the standard carried by a Roman legion. The word is itself a diminutive for "velum", meaning "sail", so early vexilla (flags) were literally "little sails".