Vexillology is the study of the history, symbolism and usage of flags or, by extension, any interest in flags in general. The word is a synthesis of the Latin word vexillum ("flag") and the Greek suffix -logia ("study").
A person who studies flags is a vexillologist, one who designs flags is a vexillographer, and the art of flag-designing is called vexillography. One who is a hobbyist or general admirer of flags is a vexillophile.
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The study of flags, or vexillology, was formalized by the U.S. scholar and student of flags Whitney Smith in 1961 with the publication of The Flag Bulletin. During his lifetime, Smith organized various flag organizations and meetings including the first International Congress of Vexillology, the North American Vexillological Association, and International Federation of Vexillological Associations. Smith, who is acknowledged as conceiving the term "vexillology" in 1957, wrote "[w]hile the use of flags goes back to the earliest days of human civilization, the study of that usage in a serious fashion is so recent that the term for it ... did not appear in print until 1959." Before this time, study of flags was generally considered a part of heraldry.
Involvement in vexillology includes academic work in fields such as sociology, history or design, professional or otherwise, contributions from the flag industry, and interest from those simply passionate about flags. ICV and local vexillological meetings often cover a wide range of interest in flags. Since 1969, an International Congress of Vexillology (ICV) has been organized every two years under the auspices of FIAV; papers presented an ICV are published afterwards as the Congress's Proceedings.