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Dictionary of Vexillology: O (Obverse - Owner Absent Flag)

Last modified: 2023-07-03 by phil nelson
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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The face, or more important side, of a flag; and in the Western tradition always depicted with the hoist to the observer’s left - the dexter in heraldry (see also 'double-sided' and 'two-sided'.

Please note however, that in Arabic tradition the flag is generally depicted with the hoist to the observer’s right – the sinister in heraldry (see also ‘sinister’; ‘dexter’, ‘reverse’ and ‘sinister hoist’).

See ‘commemorative flag’.
A term used to describe the vertical or horizontal arm of a cross that is not set on a flag’s vertical or horizontal meridian – see ‘off-centred cross 2)’ below (also ‘centred’ and ‘off-set towards’).

1) Generically see ‘Scandinavian Cross’.
2) Specifically, a cross of the Scandinavian-type that is used on a flag which is not from, or has no connection with that region, or whose vertical arm may or may not be centred but whose horizontal arm is closer to the top or bottom of the flag.

Hong Kong Christians Volyinia, Ukraine Thunstetten, Switzerland Vνdeς, Czech Republic Zdechovice; Czech Republic
From left: Hong Kong Christians (fotw); Volyinia,, Ukraine (fotw); Thunstetten, Switzerland (fotw)); Flag of Vνdeς, Czech Republic (fotw); Flag of Zdechovice; Czech Republic (fotw)

The term used to describe a charge (or charges) or a stripe (or stripes) that is (or are) set towards the hoist, fly, top or base of a flag, rather than lying on its vertical or horizontal meridian – shifted towards (see also ‘centred’, (see also ‘charge’, ‘inset’, ‘meridian’ and ‘off-centred’ and ‘optical proportions’).

Ensign - Israel Cape Verde Islands
Civil Ensign of Israel (fotw); National Flag of the Cape Verde Islands (fotw)

Please note that this term should always be accompanied by a further description, for example, off-set towards the hoist.

In US usage and some others, those flags that are flown by the past and present officers of a club, especially of a yacht or boating club – yacht officers flags (but see also ‘broad pennant 2)’).

[yacht commodore] [yacht vice commodore] [yacht rear commodore] [acht past commodore]
From left: Yacht Commodore, US (fotw); Yacht Vice Commodore, US (fotw); Yacht Rear Commodore, US (fotw); Yacht Past Commodore, US (fotw)

1) A flag that has been formally adopted by the relevant authority, and/or is considered by them to represent a particular entity, institution or cause, as opposed a design or type which is not so authorized (see also ‘flag law’, ‘folk flag’, ‘institutional flags (official)’, ‘institutional flags (unofficial)’ and ‘type flag’).
2) A term that may be employed to describe a sub-national flag which is specifically for official rather then general civil use (see also ‘banner 4)‘, ‘civil flag’, ‘ceremonial flag 1)’, ‘state service flag’ and ‘sub-national flag’ with following notes).

The term for a form of flag (now obsolete), or of a gonfanon, where the fly is rounded and comes to a point – boat-tailed or shield-shaped – but see ‘lanceolate’ (also ‘engrailed fly’, gonfalon 1), and ‘shield’).

Persia, 14th century Grenada, Spain c1350 Molise, Italy
Flag of Persia c1350? (fotw); Flag of Grenada, Spain c1350 (Klaus-Michael Schneider); Gonfanon of Molise, Italy (official website)

Please note that the differences between “ogival” and “lanceolate” are often very slight, and we suggest that both entries be consulted.

1) Generally a poetic nickname for the US national flag – the Stars and Stripes (see also ‘Betsy Ross flag’, ‘continental colours’, ‘Franklin flag’, ‘quincunx’, ‘star-spangled banner’ and ‘stars and stripes’).
2) Specifically referring to a US national flag bearing 34 stars and a small white anchor, reputedly belonging to a Captain William Driver.

old glory
Captain Driver’s Flag (fotw)

The term used in Eastern European heraldry – and a direct translation of the Polish Pσltora krzyz – that describes a Latin cross which has a second horizontal arm projecting on one side only - usually the sinister (see also ‘cross 2)’, ‘cross of Lorraine’, ‘Latin cross’ in ‘appendix VIII’ and ‘two-and-a-half armed cross’).

Arms - Nowy Targ, Poland Flag - Nowy Targ, Poland Arms - Siemiatycze. Poland Flag - Siemiatycze. Poland Arms - Kobylin-Borzymy, Poland Flag - Kobylin-Borzymy, Poland
Arms and Flag of Nowy Targ, Poland (fotw); Arms and Flag of Siemiatycze. Poland (fotw); Arms and Flag of Kobylin-Borzymy, Poland (fotw)

See ‘name pennant’.

A term used when the relative dimensions of a series of stripes progressively widen between the hoist and the fly in order to appear even when the flag is flying - graduated stripes -or where a charge is set slightly towards the hoist so that it appears to be centred under the same circumstances – two examples would be the national flag of France for use at sea, and the federal service flag of Germany (see also ‘charge 1)’, ‘hoist’, ‘fly’, ‘off-set towards’, ‘proportions 2)’, ‘stripe’ and ‘visual centre’).

France German federal service flag
National Ensign of France (fotw); Federal Service Flag of Germany (fotw)

A heraldic term for the metal gold, generally (but not invariably) shown as yellow in flags, or sometimes as gold leaf or metallic paint, or in an embroidered design, as gold thread (see also ‘Appendix III’ and ‘rule of tincture’).

See 'banderole 2)'.

A heraldic term used to describe a simple charge on a shield or banner of arms. The honourable (or main) ordinaries are said to be the chief, cross, pale, saltire, fess, pile, chevron, quarter and bend, and whilst these terms are briefly described separately herein, it is suggested that a suitable glossary or dictionary of heraldry be consulted for full or further details.

See ‘colour 2)’ and ‘colours 2)’.

1) Generically, the flag of a non-profit making organization of national rather than international significance, or of the national/district branch of an international entity, for example the UK National Trust or the Boy Scouts of America (see also ‘international flag 1)’).
2) Specifically, in US army usage – see ‘parade flag 2)’ (also ‘colour 2)’ and ‘colours 2’).

[National Trust, UK] [Boy Scouts of America]
From left: The National Trust, UK (Bartram); The Boy Scouts of America, US (fotw)

The gonfanon of St Denis, the war flag of medieval France and reputedly adapted from that of Charlemagne. The exact design is uncertain and has been variously described; however, it was almost certainly of red silk, possibly triple-tailed and charged with a number of gold disks surrounded by red roses outlined in blue – the auriflamma (see also ‘gonfanon’).

[Oriflamme interpretation]
One interpretation of the Oriflamme (CS)

See ‘type flag’.

1) The heraldic term for a border that is inset from, and parallel to, the edges of a shield, banner of arms or flag, and which may consist of an unbroken line or be made up by a number of separate charges – for example an orle of ‘plates’ as illustrated below – but see ‘inset border’ (also ‘border’, ‘charge’, ‘inset’ and ‘double-tressure’).
2) See ‘garland 1)’.
3) The heraldic term that also covers a series of charges in a circular (or near circular) pattern inset from the edges of a shield, banner of arms or flag, for example an orle of ‘mullets’ and the European Union flag as illustrated below.

example Croatia General Officer rank flag Customs Administration - Turkey Example European Union
From left: Example; Rank Flag of a General Officer, Croatia (fotw), Flag of The Customs Administration, Turkey (fotw); Example; Flag of the European Union (fotw)

Please note with regard to 1) that some heraldic writers would consider the inset narrow border on the Turkish flag illustrated above as a “tressure”.

A term that describes a cross with three horizontal arms but whose lowest horizontal arm is canted, and considered to be representative of the Eastern Orthodox Churches – a triple-armed or triple cross (see also ‘cross 2)’, ‘cross of Lorraine’, ‘papal cross’ and ‘two and a half armed cross’).

example Arms - Orenburg, Russia Flag - Orenburg, Russia
Example; Arms and Flag of Orenburg, Russia (fotw)

1) (Adj) Generically a term meaning rectangular or pertaining to or involving right angles.
2) (Adj) In vexillology a term which may be used when the arms of a saltire – or objects placed per saltire - are set at right angles to each other (particularly when the flag upon which it – or they - appear is rectangular rather than square) (see also ‘per saltire’ and ‘saltire’
3) (Adj) In vexillology the term may also be used when the fork in the fly of a swallow-tailed flag forms a right angle at the crutch (see also ‘crutch’, and and ‘swallow-tail(ed)’).

Nonince, Slovakia British India Steam Navigation
Flag of Nonince, Slovakia (fotw); House Flag of the British India Steam Navigation Co, UK (CS)

A term that may be used in describing the edge of a hanging flag that is closest to the truck, and equivalent to the top edge of a conventionally hoisted flag (see also ‘hanging flag’ and ‘inner edge’).

outer edge example

Please note that this term has been introduced by the Editors as no established alternative could be found.

In German speaking, Central European and some other usage, the term  – and a direct translation of the German auslegerflagge - which covers a long vertically orientated (often but by no means invariably) commercial flag that is fixed both along its hoist to the flagpole and along the top edge to a horizontal arm - but see also ‘framed flag 1)’ (also ‘banner 2)’, ‘hanging flag’ and ‘vertically hoisted flag’).

Please note that this type of flag is also a framed flag, that the term used here is a direct translation of the German auslegerflagge, and should not be confused with a flag hung from an outrigger pole.

The term for a flagpole that projects from the side of a building at an upward angle, usually equipped with a halyard but is sometimes removable and fitted with clips to attach the flag directly (see also ‘halyard’ and ‘tangle rod’).

1) On flags, a term used when a charge (generally but not exclusively reaching the edges of the flag) is placed over another design, as in for example, the bend on the Artigas flag of Uruguay (see also ‘charge’).
2) In heraldry, the term can be used when a charge is placed over other charges, or over a parti-coloured field, or when an inescutcheon or cartouche is placed over four or more quarters – surtout – but see ‘surmounted, by’ (also ‘escutcheon’, ‘cartouche 1)’, ‘debruised’, ‘inescutcheon’ and ‘quarter’).

overall examples Flag - Varazdin, Croatia Arms - Varazdin, Croatia
From left: The Artigas Flag, Uruguay (fotw); Shield (CS): Flag and Arms of Varazdin, Croatia (fotw)

Please note with regard to 2), it is suggested that a glossary or dictionary or heraldry be consulted with regard to comparative use of the terms “overall” and “surmounted by”.

In US usage the practice, almost certainly obsolete, of flying a plain blue flag from the starboard yardarm (or spreader) of a pleasure vessel when the owner is absent – an absence pennant (see also ‘dinner flag’, ‘guest on board flag’, ‘meal pennant’ and ‘yardarm’).

owner absent
Owner Absent Flag, US (fotw)

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