This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

Dictionary of Vexillology: S (Seal - Service Pennant)

Last modified: 2010-01-02 by phil nelson
Keywords: vexillological terms |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

On this page:

An emblem or design representing a government or person that, when embossed upon or affixed to a document, proves its authenticity or which validates a legal instrument. The reproduction of an official seal often appears on US sub-national flags (see also ‘anti-heraldry’, ‘military crest’, ‘seal flag’, ‘sub-national flag’ and ‘state flag 2)’).

[Seal of US state of Georgia] [Seal of US state of Minnesota]
State Seal of Georgia and Minnesota, US (fotw and official)

Please note, that whilst a seal originally showed the user’s badge or parts of their armorial bearings (and was used to create an impression on wax or lead), when seen on flags today it is generally not a coat of arms as defined herein (see also ‘anti-heraldry’).

A term for the flag whose main charge consists of a seal as defined herein, set largely (but not exclusively) on a plain field and most often seen in the flags of US states (see also ‘anti-heraldry’, ‘armorial flag’, ‘charge 2)’, ‘plain 2)’ and ‘seal’)

[Utah, US] [Missouri, US] [New Hampshire, US]
From left: Flag of Utah, US (fotw); Flag of Missouri, US (fotw); Flag of New Hampshire, US (fotw)

Please note that this term has been introduced by the Editors since no established alternative could be found, and that flags of his type are often derived from previously established military colours.

See ‘Magen David’.

An old term, now rarely used outside the British and Canadian foot guards, for the regimental colour (see also ‘colour 2’ and ‘colours 2)’).

See ‘registration flags’.

See ‘faceted’.

The outer edges of a length of cloth so woven that the threads do not unravel, and used to minimize the area of a flag which might otherwise be lost through hemming – most particularly in those flags formerly made from breadths of fabric (see also ‘breadth 2)’.

1) A system of signalling by means of two flags hand-held in various positions according to a recognized code (see also ‘Morse code signalling with flags’ and ‘wig wag’).
2) A system of signalling by means of movable mechanical arms, now obsolete but widely used prior to invention of the electric telegraph and at sea sometimes fitted aboard warships - telegraphing.
3) A system of flags, pennants and black shapes hoisted in various positions to indicate the state and height of the tide in some French ports.

[semaphore positions]
Positions in Semaphore (Jim Croft)

Please note with regard to 2), in British RN usage ships hoisted a designated semaphore flag to indicate that they were about to make a signal by means of the mechanical semaphore system.

See 'semaphore 2)', and note.
An originally heraldic term for where the field of a flag or shield is sown or strewn over with an indeterminate number of charges such as fleur-de-lis or stars.

[a semy flag]
National Flag of France 1814 – 1830 (fotw)

A cruciform vexilloid of classical Greece used aboard ship (to indicate command, for signalling and for identification) and sometimes draped with a phoinikis or purple cloak/length of cloth (see also ‘standard 5)’ and ‘vexilloid 2)’).

Please note that word semeion had a broad range of meanings in classical Greek all roughly corresponding to “sign” (see also ‘signum’) and it is accordingly suggested that the definition given above (whilst based on written sources) must be considered to some degree conjectural.

Also please note that semeia is the plural form of semeion, and that classical Greek writers also refer to “barbarian semeia” with those of the Phoenicians recorded as having been a globe and crescent.

See ‘demi’.

A fine silk fabric originally used as a field for the finest quality of various flags.

A pennant hoisted to indicate the senior officer's ship when several warships of the same navy are alongside or at anchor in a port – a senior officer present afloat pennant (see also 'broad pennant', 'command pennant' and 'flag of command'). It should be noted however, that many different designs are in use by different navies, and that these might also have differing or additional meanings.

[Senior Officer Afloat pennants]
From left: Argentina (CS); Estonia (CS); France, French Forces only (CS)

Please note that a green, white and green square-ended pennant – the starboard pennant in the NATO signal code - is used for this purpose (at the starboard yardarm) by all warships of the Alliance, but usually only when there is no flag officer present who is flying his flag afloat. It is, however, also employed to indicate the senior officer when ships of more than one NATO navy are present in a port, irrespective of whether any flags of command or broad pennants are flying.

[starboard pennant]
The NATO Starboard Pennant (CS)

See ‘Franklin flag’

1) The vexillogical term for a saw-toothed line on a flag or a charge so shaped – a zigzag – indented or dancetty (see also ‘wolfteeth’).
2) A term that may be used for a saw-toothed stripe – a zigzag (see also ‘wavy’).

[Bahrain - serrated flag] Civil flag of Taiwan [Mir, Belarus]
National Flag of Bahrain (fotw); Civil Ensign of Taiwan (fotw); Flag of Mir, Belarus (Viktor Lomantsov)

Please note that with regard to 1) the five white points on the flag of Bahrain (illustrated above) refer to the five pillars of Islam.

1) See ‘state flag 1)’ (also ‘state service flag’).
2) See ‘ensign 2)’ and ‘government ensign’ under ‘ensign’.
3) In US usage, a flag (instituted in 1926) flown annually at the Capitol, Washington on Armistice Day (11 November) to commemorate those who served or are serving in the armed services of that country – an American war mothers flag.
4) In largely North American usage, a flag - based upon the design of 3) above - authorized for display by families, employers, or other organizations to signify that one or more members is serving in the armed forces – a sons in service flag.

Armistice Day Flag, US single star service pennant two star service pennant single gold star/two blue star service pennant Canadian service pennant
From left: Armistice Day Flag, US (official website); Service Flags US (fotw); Canada (CS)

Please note with regard to 4) that a gold star (as illustrated above) or emblem indicates that the person being represented has died in service.

See ‘consecration’.

The generic term – and a direct translation of the German dienstwimpel – for an increasingly obsolete type of pennant that is sometimes flown (in varying forms) from the mainmast of vessels in government employ to indicate the function or service involved, or occasionally from an appropriate shore based establishments (see also ‘main’).

DDR Shipping inspectorate
The DDR Shipping Inspectorate, 1955-90 (fotw)

Introduction | Table of Contents | Index of Terms | Previous Page | Next Page