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Heraldic Symbols and meanings
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Symbolisms of Heraldry
The following symbolisms have been excerpted from W. Cecil Wade's "The Symbolisms of Heraldry or A Treatise on the Meanings and Derivations of Armorial Bearings". Published in London in 1898.
Colors and Metals
Or, yellow or gold - Generosity.
Argent, white or silver - Peace and sincerity.
Sable or black - Constancy, sometimes grief.
Azure or blue - Loyalty and truth.
Gules or red - Military fortitude and magnanimity.
Vert or green - Hope, joy and sometimes loyalty in love.
Purpure, purple - Royal majesty, sovereignty and justice.
Tenne or tawney - Worthy ambition.
Murray or sanguine - Not hasty in battle, and yet a victor.
Nebulee or Nebuly - The sea or water.
Engrailed and Invected - Earth or land.
Indented - Fire.
Dancette - Water.
Ragulee or Raguly - Difficulties which have been encountered.
Embattled - Fire or the walls of a fortress or town.
Chief - Dominion and authority.
Cross - Chevron - Protection.
Fess - Military belt or girdle of honor.
Bar - For "one who sets the bar of conscience, religion and honor against angry passions.
Pale - Military strength and fortitude.
Palet - Same as Pale.
Pile - Same as Pale.
Canton - Bearing of honor. When borne charged, it often contains some special symbols granted by the sovereign in reward for the performance of eminent service.
Quarter - Bearing of honor. Similar to the Canton.
Bend - Defense or protection.
Battune Sinister - Marks a royal descent that is barred by illegitimacy from succession to the throne.
Orle or Tressure - Preservation or protection.
Flasques - Given by a king for virtue and learning, and especially for service in embassage.
Voiders - Given to gentlewomen who have deserved highly.
Bordure or Border - Frequently adopted as a "difference" between relatives bearing the same arms.
Gyron - Unity.
Lion - Deathless courage.
Tiger - Great fierceness and valor when enraged to combat; one whose resentment will be dangerous if aroused.
Bear - Ferocity in the protection of kindred.
Wolf - Denotes valiant captains that do in the end gain their attempts after long sieges and hard enterprises. One whom it is dangerous to assail or thwart.
Rhinoceros - Great ferocity when aroused.
Elephant - Courage and strength.
Heraldic Tiger - Same as Tiger.
Leopard - Valiant and hardy warrior.
Panther - As a lion may be said to signify a brave man, so may a panther a beautiful woman, which, though fierce, is very tender and loving to her young, and will defend it with the hazard of her life.
Horse - Readiness for all employments for king and country.
Bull or Ox - Valor and magnanimity.
Boar - A fierce combatant when at bay, and ceases fighting only with its life, and therefore may be properly applied as the armorial bearing of a warrior.
Goat - Emblem of that martial man who wins a victory by the employment rather of policy than valor.
Lamb - Gentleness and patience under suffering.
Ram - Authority.
Hares and Rabbits - One who enjoys a peaceable and retired life.
Squirrel - Sylvan retirement being the delight of its bearer.
Hedgehog - Provident provider.
Beaver - Industry and perseverance.
Fox - One who will use all that he may posses of sagacity, wit or wisdom in his own defense.
Talbot, Mastiff and Greyhound - Courage, vigilancy and loyal fidelity.
Cat or Cat-A-Mountain - Liberty, vigilance, forecast and courage.
Camel - Docility, patience and indefatigable perseverance.
Bee - Well-governed industry.
Ant - Symbolizes a man of great labor, wisdom and providence.
Spider - Wisdom, labor and providence in all affairs.
Grasshopper - Wisdom and nobility.
House Snail - Deliberation and perseverance.
Double Eagle and Eagle - Signifies a man of action, ever more occupied in high and weighty affairs, and one of lofty spirit, ingenious, speedy in apprehension and judicious in matters of ambiguity.
Alerion - Signifies one who having been maimed and lamed in war, was thus prevented from fully asserting his power.
Wings - Celebrity, sometimes protection or coverture.
Feathers (usually ostrich) - Willing obedience and serenity.
Falcon or Hawk - One eager or hot in the pursuit of an object much desired.
Hawks or Falcons Bells - One who feared not to signal his approach in either peace or war.
Owl - One who is vigilant and of acute wit.
Peacock - Beauty and pride of carriage.
Pelican - Devoted and self-sacrificing charity.
Stork - Filial duty, emblem of a grateful man.
Swan - A lover of poetry and harmony.
Goose and Duck - A man of many resources.
Gannet - To subsist by the wings of his virtue and merit, having little land to rest upon.
Swallow - One who is prompt and ready in the dispatch of his business.
Cock - Courage, always ready for battle, ready to fight to the death.
Dove - Loving constancy and peace.
Raven - One who, having derived little from his ancestors, has through Providence become the architect of his own fortunes or one of an enduring constancy of nature.
Crow - Signifies a settled habitation and a quiet life.
Dolphin - Charity and a kind affection towards children.
Tortoise - Invulnerability to attack.
Unicorn - Extreme courage.
Griffin - Sets forth the property of a valorous soldier whose magnanimity is such that he will dare all dangers, and even death itself, rather than become captive.
Dragon - A most valiant defender of treasure.
Cockatrice - Terror to all beholders.
Sphinx - Omniscience and secrecy.
Pegasus - Exceeding activity and energy of mind whereby one may mount to honour.
Harpy - Ferocity under provocation.
Mermaid - Eloquence.
Centuar - For those who have been eminent in the field.
Hydra - The conquest of a very powerful enemy.
Phoenix - Resurrection.
Stag, Hart, Buck and Deer - Policy, Peace and Harmony.
Horns and Antlers - Strength and Fortitude.
Escallop Shell - One who has made long journeys or voyages to far countries, who had borne considerable naval command or who had gained great victories.
Other Shells - Protection of Providence.
Heart - Charity, sincerity.
Flaming Heart - Ardent affection.
Hand - Faith, sincerity and justice.
Red Hand - Usual mark for a baronet if borne on a small escutcheon.
Arm - A laborious and industrious person.
Gauntlet - Signify a man armed for the performance of martial enterprise.
Leg - Strength, stability and expedition.
Shoe - Same as Leg.
Foot - Same as leg.
Human Head - Honor.
Blackamoor Head - Deeds of prowess in the Crusades.
Skulls - Mortality.
Crossed Thigh-bones - Mortality.
Eye - Providence in Government.
Millstones - The mutual converse of human society.
Sceptre - Justice.
Trident - Maritime dominion.
Crown - Royal or seigniorial authority.
Celestial Crown - Heavenly reward.
Pastoral Crosier - The emblem of a shepherd’s watchfulness over his flock, and denotes episcopal jurisdiction and authority.
Annulet or Finger Ring - Fidelity.
Lozenge - Honesty and constancy, also held to be a token of noble birth.
Billets - Their first bearer was a man who obtained credence, knowledge and faith in his words and deeds, and who was secret in his affairs.
Pen - Emblematic of the liberal art of writing and of learned employments.
Inkhorn - Same as pen.
Harp - Contemplation.
Lyre - Same as harp.
Scythe - Hope of a fruitful harvest of things hoped for.
Sickle - Same as Scythe.
Anchor - Succor in extremity and the Christian symbol of hope.
Ship, Lumphiad or Galley - All such symbols would point to some notable expedition by sea, by which, perhaps, the first bearers had become famous.
Cubes, squares or dice - Constancy, wisdom, verity probity, and equity.
Lozenge - Same as Cubes.
Axe -- Execution of military duty.
Purse - A frank and liberal steward of the blessings that God has bestowed .
Tower or Castle - Grandeur and solidity. Sometimes granted to one who has held one for his king, or who has captured one by force or stratagem.
Bridge - Signifies a governor or magistrate.
Pillar or Column - Fortitude and constancy.
Snake - Wisdom.
Scaling Ladder - One who was fearless in attacking.
Crosses - Symbolic of some Christian experience or sentiment.
Trestles and stools - Hospitality.
Cushions - Marks of authority.
Angels, Cherubs and Seraphs - Dignity, glory and honor.
Estoiles - Emblems of God’s goodness or of some eminence in the first bearer above the ruder sort of men.
Mullet - Denotes some Divine quality bestowed from above.
Gold Spur - Dignity of knighthood.
Silver Spur - An esquire.
Sun - Glory and splendor.
Crescent - Signifies one who has been enlightened and honored by the gracious aspect of his sovereign.
Moon - Serene power over mundane actions.
Fire - Zeal.
Lightning - The effecting of some weighty business with great clarity and force.
Rocks - Safety, refuge and protection.
Portcullis - Effectual protection in emergency.
Hunting Horn - One who is fond of high pursuits.
Trumpet - Ready for the fray.
Cannon, Mortars, Cannon Balls and Grenades - Well bestowed on those who have dared their terrors in sieges and battles.
Sword - Indicates the bearer to a just and generous pursuit of honor and virtue in warlike deeds.
Arrows and Arrowheads - Martial readiness.
Spear or Lance - Knightly service and devotion to honor.
Spear Heads or Pheons - Dexterity and nimbleness of wit to penetrate and understand matters of highest consequence.
Shield - A defender.
Saddles, Stirrups and Spurs - Preparedness for active service.
Horse Shoe - Good luck.
Trunk of a Tree - An object of veneration.
Fusil - Travel and labour.
Shacklebolt - Victory in war.
Water Bougets - Conferred on those who had brought water to an army or besieged place.
Catharine Wheel - Emblem of one who is prepared to undergo great trials for the Christian faith.
Escarbuncle - Supremacy.
Buckles - Victorious fidelity in authority.
Clarion or Rest - Same as Trumpet.
Beacons or Cressets - One who is watchful for the commonwealth or who gave the signal in time of danger.
Chains - A reward for acceptable or weighty service.
Fusil of Yarn - Negotiation.
Fret - Persuasion
Gold Roundles - One who has been found worthy of trust and treasure.
White Roundles - Generosity.
Wheel - Fortune.
Cornucopia - Bounty of Nature’s gifts.
Chaplets and Wreaths - Granted for special service.
When searching for a coat of arms from countries other than England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, they are reffered to by different names, in
Germany: Wappen, Familienwappen, Blasonierung, Heraldik, Wappenschablonen
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