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Dictionary of Vexillology: F (F Cross - First Canton)

Last modified: 2013-05-26 by rob raeside
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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See ‘one-and-a-half armed cross’.

Stern und Kreis Stern und Kreis
Flag and Arms of Kobylin-Borzymy, Poland (fotw)

The term which may be used to describe a charge (such as a star or sun) that is given a three-dimensional appearance by the use of contrasting colours or of simple construction lines - sectored or a star gyronny (see also ‘caltrap’, ‘counterchanged’, ‘cross gyronny’ in ‘appendix VIII’, ‘sector(s) 1)’ and ‘sectored 2)’).

Stern und Kreis Mollis, Switzerland state ensign emblem - Singapore  state ensign emblem - Singapore
From left: House Flag of Stern und Kreis, Germany (fotw); Flag of Mollis, Switzerland (fotw); State Ensign of Singapore and Enlarged Detail (fotw and CS)

1) An imprecise term sometimes (incorrectly) used for an erroneously reported flag instead of the precise terms fictional or fictitious flag – see ‘fictional flag’ and ‘fictitious flag’ (also ‘flagoid’).
2) See ‘false flag 1)

Please note that this term may be considered as a logical impossibility since any flag, or depiction of a flag, whether fictional or fictitious, remains a flag whatever its real status as long as it meets the basic definition of flag as given herein.

See 'descending diagonal'.

[falling diagonal example]
Flag of Hove, Belgium (fotw)

An ensign or other flag displayed by a vessel not entitled to it, and usually (but not invariably) employed by warships as a ruse de guerre (see also ‘colours 4)’ and ‘false flag 1)’ below).

Please note that this practice is considered perfectly acceptable providing the correct ensign is raised before the commencement of hostilities.

1) The term which may be used for a flag or ensign that is made to resemble an established or historic design in order to deceive the observer, either as to origins of the flag itself, or the identity of those displaying it (see also ‘flag of pretence 1)’).
2) See ‘false colours’ above.

A semi-circular patriotic decoration in bunting of flag design and/or colours - a swag (see also ‘bunting 2)’ and ‘mourning bunting’).


See ‘sports flag 2)’.

[Liverpool Football Club]
Liverpool Football Club, UK (fotw)

1) A medieval generic term, now obsolete, for any flag, banner or pennant (see also ‘vane’ and its following note).
2) In Danish usage, a term that may be employed to describe flags (either military or civilian) carried in a parade situation (see also ‘colour 2)’ and ‘parade flag’).

Please note the similarity between this term and the German Fahne or flag.

1) A small bicolour used for marking a position in surveying (see also ‘bicolour’).
2) A small flag or pennant that is used on military vehicles for marker purposes – a vehicular or convoy flag (see also ‘pennant’ and ‘regimental colours 2)’).
3) In French military/naval usage, a small flag issued at company (unit or squadron) level and originally employed as markers, for signal purposes or as camp colours, but which have acquired an additional ceremonial role (see also ‘camp colour 1)’, ‘camp colour 3)’, ‘cravat’, ‘jack of honour’ and ‘lanyard pennant’).

Please note that usage 2) is a direct descendent of the flag formerly carried at the head of an army baggage train.

convoy flag convoy flag convoy flag
Three Fanions/Convoy Flags According to Nato Regulations (fotw)

A term, now obsolete, and the equivalent of a vexillum or banner.

A term, now obsolete, for a small flag on a ship (see also ‘fane’).

See ‘fictional flag’.

[Klingon fantasy flag]
Flag of the Klingon Empire from the TV Series Deep Space Nine (fotw)

A term – often divided into lightfastness and washfastness - used to describe the ability of a fabric (and of its dye) to maintain its original colour and intensity, thus a determining factor in calculating the life of an outdoor flag.

See ‘state flag 1)’ (also ‘state service flag’).

[Federal Service Flag of Austria]
The Federal Service Flag of Austria (fotw)

A metal tip placed on the bottom of a staff (see also ‘pike’ and ‘staff 2)’).

A Ferrule According to Spanish Regulations (Reglamento de Banderas Actualizado)

See ‘millrind’.

[Pepinster Belgium] [Pepinster Belgium]
Arms and Flag of Pepinster, Belgium (fotw)

The heraldic term for a horizontal stripe where the centre line lies along the horizontal meridian of a shield, a banner of arms or any quartering thereof, and which (in strict heraldic usage) should occupy one-third the width of that shield, banner of arms or quartering – but see ‘triband’, ‘appendix VI’ and compare with ‘bar’ (also ‘banner of arms’, ‘in fess’, ‘perfess’ and ‘quartering 1)’).

[fess] [Austria civil flag]
Shield from the National Arms of Austria (CS); National Flag of Austria (fotw)

In vexillology a fess and a bar are regarded as almost synonymous, however, please note that in strict heraldic usage there is a size difference between the two (as listed herein), and that a fess should be confined to the centreline of the field whereas a bar or bars need not.

See ‘honour point 2)’.


A heraldically derived term intended to mean a single, narrow horizontal stripe – but see ‘bar’, ‘barrulet’ and ‘filet’ (also ‘fess’).


See ‘in fess’.

Hφlstein, CH
Flag of Hφlstein, Switzerland (fotw)

See ‘ceremonial flag 1)’ (also ‘gonfanon’).

[festive banner example]
Festive Banner of Barlinek, Poland (fotw)

A flag that appears in a work of fiction either visual or written - which may or may not have physical existence as a flag - but which is (entirely or largely) a product of the author’s imagination (see also ‘fictitious flag’ below).

[flag from Star Trek] [flag from the Movie Royal Flash ]
Flag from the Science Fiction TV Series Star Trek (fotw); Flag of Strackenz from the Movie Royal Flash (fotw)

A flag – or the illustration of a flag - that purports to represent an actual entity or person, but for which no evidence of any such use by that entity or person exists – but see ‘flagoid’ (also ‘false flag 1)’, ‘fictional flag’ above, ‘flag of pretence 1)’ and ‘replica flag’).

[flag from film Casablanca] [flag from film K-19]
Spurious Flag of French Morocco from the film Casablanca (fotw); Spurious Soviet Naval Flag from the Film K19

1) The whole background or predominant colour of a flag – the ground of a flag.
2) In heraldry, the surface of a shield upon which charges or bearings are blazoned, or of each separate coat when the shield is quartered or impaled (see also ‘blazon’, ‘coat’, ‘impale’, ‘shield’ and ‘quarter’).

1) In US military usage, a larger version of a positional flag designed for hoisting on halyards outdoors under field conditions (see ‘positional flag’).
2) In US military usage, a national flag of approximately the same size flown with the positional field flag.

The heraldic term for a narrow horizontal stripe that is of no specified width, but which is considered to be a diminutive of bar – see ‘bar 1)’ (also ‘appendix VI’ and ‘barrulet’).

Please note that the term is sometimes spelt “fillet” but in this form it has a different meaning in English heraldry – see ‘fillet 2)’ and ‘fillet 3)’.

A term sometimes used to describe a plain cross with narrow arms – but see ‘filet’ and ‘cross 1)’ (also ‘fillet 1)’ and ‘fillet 2)’). 

[filet cross] [filet cross]
Example; Flag of Zhytomir County, Ukraine

Please note that the term is sometimes spelt “fillet” but in this form it has a different meaning in English heraldry – see ‘fillet 2)’ and ‘fillet 3)’.

1) A frequent misspelling of the heraldic term filet - see ‘filet’.
2) A heraldic term used to describe a second chief placed below that at the top of a shield or banner of arms; it is suggested by some sources that a fillet should have a depth equal to one-fourth of the chief above and by others that it is merely a diminutive of that term – see ‘chief’ (also ‘Appendix VI:’).
3) The term may also be used to describe a narrow headband or plain coronet – see ‘coronet 1)’. 

[fillet] [fillet]
From left: Example; Flag of Corsica, France (fotw)

1) Generically on flags, a (relatively) narrow band or line of contrasting colour separating two areas of the same, similar or differing colour, such as a band, charge or canton, from its field. Its use in flags is derived from the application of the heraldic rule of tincture. Two tinctures can be separated by a band of a metal (gold/yellow or silver/white) or two metals by a band of one or other tincture.
See note below (also ‘canton 1)’, ‘edging’ and ‘border’).
2) Specifically and in heraldry, as above but a narrow band or line placed on a shield, banner of arms or flag in accordance with the rule of tincture – see ‘rule of tincture’ (also ‘border’snd ‘multi-stripe’)

Ghana Saudi Arabia Spanish Morocco Cacinci, Croatia
From left: Civil Ensign of Ghana (fotw); Civil Ensign of Saudi Arabia (fotw); Civil Ensign of Spanish Morocco 1937 – 1956 (fotw); Flag of Čačinci, Croatia (fotw)

Please note with regard to 1) that a charge may have a double or even triple fimbriation, and if so we suggest that you consult the entry for 'cotticed' and its following note.

A term for the national colours (or sometimes the national flag/an emblem therefrom) when painted as a symbol of nationality on the tail plane/fin of largely (but not exclusively) military aircraft - a fin marking or rudder stripes (see also ‘fuselage marking(s)’, ‘aircraft marking(s)’, ‘flag emblem’, ‘roundel 1)’, ‘national colours 2)’, and ‘wing marking(s)’).

Royal Australian Air Force fin flash  Royal Thai Air Force fin flash fin flash of Zimbabwe
Fin Flash of the Royal Australian Air Force (fotw); Fin Flash of the Royal Thai Air Force (fotw); Fin Flash of Zimbabwe (fotw)

A cast or carved ornament (such as a cross, crescent, crown or spearhead) placed at the top of the flagpole, mast or flag staff above the truck or on the top of a staff – a staff ornament (see also ‘Appendix I’, ‘ferrule’, ‘flag pole’, ‘pike’, ‘staff 2)’ and ‘truck’).

[finial] [finial] [finial]
US Military Finials: President, Navy and Army (fotw)

In largely US usage, a flag with a red field and inscriptions raised in conjunction with a wildfire danger warning by the Forestry Commissions of many states (see also ‘red flag 1)’).

[Fire Alert Flag - Oklahoma]
Red Fire Alert Flag of the Oklahoma Forestry Commission, US (CS)

1) Generically in heraldry, a charge intended to represent the hand held anvil from which a spark is struck.
2) Specifically In Eastern European heraldry, a ‘C’ shaped charge intended to represent the plate used in an Orthodox Church for the holding of burning incense – for example those on the shield in Serbia’s national arms.

[Firesteel example]  [Firesteel example] [Firesteel example]
Lesser Arms of Serbia (fotw); Flag of Aranđelovac, Serbia (fotw); Cavalry Standard, Holy Roman Empire c1630 (Željko Heimer))

A term for that quarter of a flag which occupies the upper hoist - the first quarter, upper hoist or upper hoist canton – see ‘canton 1)’ and ‘canton 3)’ (also ‘hoist 1)’).

[First canton]

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