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In heraldry and heraldic vexillology, a blazon is a formal description of a coat of arms, flag or similar emblem, from which the reader can reconstruct the appropriate image. The verb to blazon means to create such a description. The visual depiction of a coat of arms or flag has traditionally had considerable latitude in design, but a verbal blazon specifies the essentially distinctive elements. A coat of arms or flag is therefore primarily defined not by a picture but rather by the wording of its blazon (though often flags are in modern usage additionally and more precisely defined using geometrical specifications). Blazon
Blazon
also refers to the specialized language in which a blazon is written, and, as a verb, to the act of writing such a description. This language has its own vocabulary, grammar and syntax, or rules governing word order, which becomes essential for comprehension when blazoning a complex coat of arms. Other armorial objects and devices – such as badges, banners, and seals – may also be described in blazon. The noun and verb blazon (referring to a verbal description) are not to be confused with the noun emblazonment, or the verb to emblazon, both of which relate to the graphic representation of a coat of arms or heraldic device.

Contents

1 Etymology 2 Grammar

2.1 French vocabulary and grammar

3 Complexity 4 See also 5 References 6 External links

Etymology[edit] The word blazon is derived from French blason, "shield". It is found in English by the end of the 14th century.[1] Formerly, heraldic authorities believed that the word was related to the German verb blasen, "to blow (a horn)".[2][3] Present-day lexicographers reject this theory as conjectural and disproved.[1] Grammar[edit] Blazon
Blazon
is generally designed to eliminate ambiguity of interpretation, to be as concise as possible, and to avoid repetition and extraneous punctuation. English antiquarian Charles Boutell
Charles Boutell
stated in 1864:

Heraldic
Heraldic
language is most concise, and it is always minutely exact, definite, and explicit; all unnecessary words are omitted, and all repetitions are carefully avoided; and, at the same time, every detail is specified with absolute precision. The nomenclature is equally significant, and its aim is to combine definitive exactness with a brevity that is indeed laconic.[4]

However, John Brooke-Little, Norroy and Ulster King of Arms, wrote in 1985: "Although there are certain conventions as to how arms shall be blazoned ... many of the supposedly hard and fast rules laid down in heraldic manuals [including those by heralds] are often ignored."[5] A given coat of arms may be drawn in many different ways, all considered equivalent and faithful to the blazon, just as the letter "A" may be printed in many different fonts while still being the same letter. For example, the shape of the escutcheon is almost always immaterial, with very limited exceptions (e.g., the coat of arms of Nunavut, for which a round shield is specified). The main conventions of blazon are as follows:

Every blazon of a coat of arms begins by describing the field (background), with the first letter capitalised, followed by a comma ",". In a majority of cases this is a single tincture; e.g. Azure (blue). If the field is complex, the variation is described, followed by the tinctures used; e.g. Chequy
Chequy
gules and argent (checkered red and white). If the shield is divided, the division is described, followed by the tinctures of the subfields, beginning with the dexter side (shield bearer's right, but viewer's left) of the chief (upper) edge; e.g. Party per pale argent and vert (dexter half silver, sinister half green), or Quarterly argent and gules (clockwise from viewer's top left, i.e. dexter chief: white, red, white, red). In the case of a divided shield, it is common for the word "party" or "parted" to be omitted (e.g., Per pale argent and vert, a tree eradicated counterchanged). Some authorities prefer to capitalise the names of tinctures and charges, but this convention is far from universal. Where tinctures are not capitalised, an exception may be made for the metal Or, in order to avoid confusion with the English word "or". Where space is at a premium, tincture names may be abbreviated: e.g., ar. for argent, gu. for gules, az. for azure, sa. for sable, and purp. for purpure. Following the description of the field, the principal ordinary or ordinaries and charge(s) are named, with their tincture(s); e.g., a bend or. The principal ordinary or charge is followed by any other charges placed on or around it. If a charge is a bird or a beast, its attitude is defined, followed by the creature's tincture, followed by anything that may be differently coloured; e.g. An eagle displayed gules armed and wings charged with trefoils or (see the coat of arms of Brandenburg
Brandenburg
below). Counterchanged means that a charge which straddles a line of division is given the same tinctures as the divided field, but reversed (see the arms of Behnsdorf
Behnsdorf
below). A quartered (composite) shield is blazoned one quarter (panel) at a time, proceeding by rows from chief (top) to base, and within each row from dexter (the right side of the bearer holding the shield) to sinister; in other words, from the viewer's left to right. Following the description of the shield, any additional components of the achievement – such as crown/coronet, helmet, torse, mantling, crest, motto, supporters and compartment – are described in turn, using the same terminology and syntax. A convention often followed historically was to name a tincture explicitly only once within a given blazon. If the same tincture was found in different places within the arms, this was addressed either by ordering all elements of like tincture together prior to the tincture name (e.g., Argent, two chevrons and a canton gules); or by naming the tincture only at its first occurrence, and referring to it at subsequent occurrences obliquely, for example by use of the phrase "of the field" (e.g., Argent, two chevrons and on a canton gules a lion passant of the field); or by reference to its numerical place in the sequence of named tinctures (e.g., Argent, two chevrons and on a canton gules a lion passant of the first: in both these examples, the lion is argent). However, these conventions are now avoided by the College of Arms
College of Arms
in London, and by most other formal granting bodies, as they may introduce ambiguity to complex blazons.[6] It is common to print all heraldic blazons in italic.[6][7] Heraldry has its own vocabulary, word-order and punctuation, and presenting it in italics indicates to the reader the use of a quasi-foreign language.

Azure, a bend or. A coat made famous by the medieval court case Scrope v. Grosvenor.

Party per pale argent and vert, a tree eradicated counterchanged. Arms of Behnsdorf.

Argent, an eagle displayed gules armed and wings charged with trefoils Or. Arms of Brandenburg.

Quarterly 1st and 4th Sable a lion rampant on a canton Argent
Argent
a cross Gules; 2nd and 3rd quarterly Argent
Argent
and Gules
Gules
in the 2nd and 3rd quarters a fret Or overall on a bend Sable three escallops of the first and as an augmentation in chief an inescutcheon, Argent
Argent
a cross Gules
Gules
and thereon an inescutcheon Azure, three fleurs-de-lis Or. Arms of Churchill.[8]

French vocabulary and grammar[edit] Because heraldry developed at a time when English clerks wrote in Anglo-Norman French, many terms in English heraldry are of French origin. Some of the details of the syntax of blazon also follow French practice: thus, adjectives are normally placed after nouns rather than before. A number of heraldic adjectives may be given in either a French or an anglicised form: for example, a cross pattée or a cross patty; a cross fitchée or a cross fitchy. In modern English blazons, the anglicised form tends to be preferred.[6] Where the French form is used, a problem may arise as to the appropriate adjectival ending, determined in normal French usage by gender and number.

To describe two hands as appaumées, because the word main is feminine in French, savours somewhat of pedantry. A person may be a good armorist, and a tolerable French scholar, and still be uncertain whether an escallop-shell covered with bezants should be blazoned as bezanté or bezantée.[9]

J. E. Cussans recommended spelling all French adjectives in the masculine singular, without regard to the gender and number of the nouns they qualify; but believed that a more usual convention was to adhere to the feminine singular form, for example: a chief undée and a saltire undée, even though the French nouns chef and sautoir are in fact masculine.[9] Complexity[edit] Full descriptions of shields range in complexity, from a single word to a convoluted series describing compound shields:

Arms of Brittany: Ermine Azure, a Bend Or, over which the families of Scrope
Scrope
and Grosvenor fought a famous legal battle (see Scrope v. Grosvenor
Scrope v. Grosvenor
and image above). Arms of Östergötland, Sweden: Gules, a Griffin
Griffin
with dragon wings tail and tongue rampant Or armed beaked langued and membered Azure between four Roses Argent. Arms of Hungary
Hungary
dating from 1867, when part of Austria-Hungary:

Quarterly I. Azure three Lions' Heads affronté Crowned Or (for Dalmatia); II. chequy Argent
Argent
and Gules
Gules
(for Croatia); III. Azure a River in Fess
Fess
Gules
Gules
bordered Argent
Argent
thereon a Marten proper beneath a six-pointed star Or (for Slavonia); IV. per Fess
Fess
Azure and Or over all a Bar Gules
Gules
in the Chief a demi-Eagle Sable displayed addextré of the Sun-in-splendour and senestré of a Crescent Argent
Argent
in the Base seven Towers three and four Gules
Gules
(for Transylvania); enté en point Gules
Gules
a double-headed Eagle proper on a Peninsula Vert holding a Vase pouring Water into the Sea Argent
Argent
beneath a Crown proper with bands Azure (for Fiume); over all an escutcheon Barry of eight Gules
Gules
and Argent impaling Gules
Gules
on a Mount Vert a Crown Or issuant therefrom a double-Cross Argent
Argent
(for Hungary).[10]

Arms of Brittany

Arms of Östergötland

Arms of Hungary
Hungary
(1867)

See also[edit]

Flag
Flag
terminology

References[edit]

^ a b "blazon, n.". Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
(3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.) ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, 9th. ed., vol.11, p.683, "Heraldry" ^  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Blazon". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.  ^ Boutell, Charles, Heraldry, Historical and Popular, 3rd edition, London, 1864, pp. 8–9. ^ J. P. Brooke-Little: An Heraldic
Heraldic
Alphabet; new and revised edition, p. 52. London: Robson Books, 1985. ^ a b c " Blazon
Blazon
in CoA". CoA: The Coat of Arms. Retrieved 26 December 2017.  ^ Boutell 1864, p. 11. ^ Courtenay, P. The Armorial Bearings of Sir Winston Churchill Archived 2013-07-18 at the Wayback Machine.. The Churchill Centre. ^ a b Cussans, John E. (1874). The Handbook of Heraldry
Heraldry
(2nd ed.). London: Chatto & Windus. p. 47.  ^ Velde, François (August 1998). "Hungary". Heraldry
Heraldry
by Countries. Retrieved 2007-12-13. 

General

Brault, Gerard J. (1997). Early Blazon: Heraldic
Heraldic
Terminology in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries, (2nd ed.). Woodbridge, UK: The Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-711-4. Elvin, Charles Norton. (1969). A Dictionary of Heraldry. London: Heraldry
Heraldry
Today. ISBN 0-900455-00-4. Parker, James. A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry, (2nd ed.). Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Co. ISBN 0-8048-0715-9.

External links[edit]

The dictionary definition of blazon at Wiktionary Media related to Illustrated atlas of French and English heraldic terms at Wikimedia Commons Heraldic
Heraldic
Dictionary[dead link] A Heraldic
Heraldic
Primer, by Stephen Gold and Timothy Shead, explaining the terminology in detail A Grammar
Grammar
of Blazonry by Bruce Miller "Commonly Known" Heraldic
Heraldic
Blazon/Emblazon Knowledge, an SCA page with a lengthy dictionary of blazon terms Public Register of the Canadian Heraldic
Heraldic
Authority with many useful official versions of modern coats of arms, searchable online Civic Heraldry
Heraldry
of England and Wales, fully searchable with illustrations Arms of members of the Heraldry
Heraldry
Society of Scotland, fully searchable with illustrations of bearings Arms of members of the Heraldry
Heraldry
Society (England), with illustrations of bearings Members' Roll of Arms of the Royal Heraldry
Heraldry
Society of Canada, with illustrations of bearings

v t e

Heraldry

Armiger Law of heraldic arms Grant of arms Blazon

Officers and officials

Authorities Officers of arms

King of Arms, Herald, Pursuivant

Private Officer of Arms

Conventional elements of coats of arms

Escutcheon Chief Field (Tincture) Division Supporter Supporter Slogan (battle cry) Crest Torse Mantling Helmet/Galero Crown/Coronet Compartment Order Ordinaries Charges Motto Dexter Sinister (right) (left)

Types of coats of arms

National coat of arms Ecclesiastical heraldry Burgher arms Civic heraldry Canting arms Attributed arms

Heraldic achievement

Escutcheon (shield)

Field

Divisions Variations

Charge Chief Lines Ordinary Augmentation of honour Cadency Marshalling

Quartering Impalement

Pale Bar Bend Bordure Canton Chevron Cross Fess Flaunch Gyron Label Lozenge Orle Pall Roundel Saltire

Creatures

Beasts

Bear Boar Bull/Ox Dog/Hound Camelopard (giraffe) Hind/Stag (deer) Kangaroo Leopard Lion Wolf

Birds

Cock Dove Eagle Martlet Pelican Rook

Sea creatures

Dolphin Ged Seahorse Lucy (esox) Scallop

Legendary creatures

Allocamelus Alphyn Basilisk Biscione Chollima Cockatrice Dragon Enfield Garuda Griffin/Keythong Harpy Konrul Lampago Lindworm Manticore Mermaid Pantheon Panther Pegasus Phoenix Salamander Hippocampus Hippogriff Sea-lion Turul Tyger Unicorn Wyvern Yale

Others

Bat Bee Crapaudy (toad) Emmet (ant) Serpent

Knots

Bourchier knot Bowen knot Cavendish knot Dacre knot Harrington knot Hastings knot Heneage knot Hinckaert knot Hungerford knot Lacy knot Medici knot Morvillier knot Ormonde knot Savoy knot Shakespeare knot Stafford knot Trafford knot Tristram knot Wake knot

Tinctures Rules Tricking Hatching

Metals

     Argent
Argent
(white)      Or (gold)

Colours

     Gules
Gules
(red)      Sable (black)      Azure (blue)      Vert (green)      Purpure
Purpure
(purple)

Furs

Ermines

Erminois Erminites Pean

Vair

Potent

Stains

     Murrey
Murrey
(mulberry)      Sanguine (blood red)      Tenné

Non-traditional1

Metals

     Copper

Colours

     Bleu-celeste      Carnation      Cendrée      Orange      Rose

External

Crowns and coronets Crest Compartment Helmet Mantling Motto Supporter Torse Mantle and pavilion

See also

List of oldest heraldry Heraldic
Heraldic
flag ( Banner
Banner
of arms) Heraldic
Heraldic
badge Women in heraldry Socialist heraldry Vexillology

1 Non-traditional, rarely used traditions in italic (typically regional or modern, considered unheraldic by some) Heraldry
Heraldry
portal Portal:Heraldry/Web resources

v t e

Heraldic
Heraldic
tinctures

Rule of tincture Tricking
Tricking
system Hatching system

Metals

Argent Or

Colours

Azure Gules Purpure Sable Vert

Furs

Ermine Vair

Stains

Murrey Sanguine Tenné

Non-traditional1

Metals

Copper

Colours

Bleu celeste Carnation Cendrée Orange Rose

1 Rarely used – mostly only in some regional traditions or as relatively modern innovations – and considered unheraldic by some.

Her

.