from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A flag is an abstract two-dimensional arrangement of colors, surfaces and symbols, usually in a rectangular shape. It usually consists of a cloth, but other materials such as paper, plastic or metal can also be used. Their painted picture often serves the same purposes as the actual flag.

Flags are used for the visual transmission of information, originally over a greater distance, such as from ship to ship. Often this is the marking of the affiliation or the representation of communities and corporations. The doctrine of flags and flags is called vexillology ( flag science ).


The word flag has a Nordic origin, probably in the 17th century in England , which comes from the Old Norse word flogra , which means to flutter . Around 1600, in the course of the emergence of national flags, it finally found its way into Dutch and Low German or Netherlandish language usage in a modified form and thus became the vlag (Dutch: "ship flag"). Later it became a flag in German usage . Another variant of origin can be found in the old Saxon or Germanic word Flaken or Ffleogan , which means something like "to blow in the wind".

Differentiation of the terms

Some national flags of the western world

Colloquially, the words flag and flag are often used synonymously.

In the narrower (legal) sense, a flag is a piece of cloth that can be disposed of and replaced after it has worn out. Flags are replaceable, they are made in different sizes and in large numbers. A flag is often hoisted on a mast or flag pole with a flag line and is therefore easily exchangeable. The word flag also serves as a generic term for flags, banners, standards and stands.

Flag :
A flag is always unique . A flag is an unacceptable individual item ( troop flag , club flag, guild flag, regimental flag). The flag is usually solid, attached directly to the stick. In Switzerland , flags are also called "flags".

Banner :
Banner is the medieval term for a flag. Today it is understood to mean flags hanging on a horizontal cross stick.

Stander :
Stander are mostly triangular flags that serve as distinguishing marks. In the naval forces they serve as badges of rank or command symbols.

Standards :
Nowadays, standards are mostly used to denote sovereign badges, especially on vehicles, or flags that are not attached to the side of a mast or stand, but rather hang with a cross member in the middle in front of the mast. Standards are mostly square.


Historical flag of the Dutch East India Company on an East Indiaman

The predecessors of flags and banners are the so-called vexilloloids , a standard form that is still common in some parts of the world today. The first evidence can be found on 5500 year old ancient Egyptian pottery on which vexilloloids are depicted. Vexilloloids were widespread and took different forms in different cultures. Examples are the signum carried by the Romans , from which the fabric flag, the vexillum , developed, or the symbolic fans and parasols in Southeast Asia. The oldest surviving 'flag' is a 5000 year old standard from Iran with a 'cloth' made of metal. Fabrics still played a subordinate role; leather, wood, metal and other materials were used much more frequently. It is very likely that silk was used for the first time in China as a flag fabric, whose tradition of silk production probably dates back to 3000 BC. Goes back to BC. This brought with it two changes that can still be found in flags today: the attachment of the cloth to the side and the increased importance of the cloth compared to the flagpole. It is very likely that the silk flag spread to the Middle East in pre-Islamic times (early 7th century). A reinvention of the flag due to the silk trade is considered unlikely. Observance of the ban on images in Islam promoted the development towards abstract symbolism. With the Crusades , flags found their way into the western world. Other sources see the beginning of the use of flags as a distinguishing mark among the Vikings. Beowulf recorded the use of war banners.

Medieval heraldry in Europe based its origins in the practical use of recognizing warriors on the battlefield . The heraldic rules used to avoid color on color and metal on metal were only valid to a limited extent for flags and no longer play a role today (for example the German federal flag ). The color green, frowned upon in coats of arms, was often used on flags in the High Middle Ages, for example.

The symbolism was initially, with a few exceptions, richly decorative and appeared to be chosen arbitrarily. No flag was used to indicate the leader of a battle. This changed fundamentally with the Crusades. Flags, shields, helmets and clothing were equipped with the heraldic symbolism as a visible, assignable symbol and underlined the rights and privileges of the flag leader.

The development of symbols on land went hand in hand with fundamental changes at sea. In the late 12th century, the first flags appeared on ships, first in the Mediterranean and in the middle of the 13th century in the North Sea. At this point in time, rules for flags were already in place, which still apply today. For example, a treaty concluded in 1270 between England and the Counts of Flanders required the use of correct identification flags - driving under a false flag was frowned upon.

From around the late 15th century it became common practice - somewhat later even regulated by law - to use flags at sea to indicate nationality, which eventually evolved into today's national flags.

From the 18th century, flags were designed and used as signal codes at sea. In addition, there were numerous standardizations in the flag system. The most important development, however, was the establishment of the national flag , which represents the citizens of a people. The first representative of this new type was certainly the flag of the USA . The development of the national flag was initiated by the emergence of the modern, bourgeois nation-state , whose nurseries were the American and French revolutions .

Raise and strike the flag

Flag ceremony in East Timor

Flags are hoisted or set ( “called” in sailor's language ); Banners placed against it. The solemn ceremony is called the flag parade . In the way they are used, flags can transmit further information, for example in the case of mourning flags . But only flags may be placed at half-mast, banners and house flags, however, are provided with one or two mourning florets. It shows ignorance of the flagging rules when banners and house flags are set at half-mast.

If a head of state visits another country, the national flag of his country (guest flag) is shown in his honor. In international competitions, the winners are also honored by setting their national flags. On ships , your national flag is usually at the stern.

The phrase “to paint the flag” goes back to the nautical custom of pulling up the ship's flag as an admission of defeat.

Flag flying on ships

Ships usually carry their own national flag at the stern. The “own” flag of merchant ships is that of the state in whose shipping register it is entered - due to the flagging that is widespread today, it is often neither the state in which the owners are domiciled nor that of the crew. In old sailing ships or warships , the national flag is set at sea in the gaff of the ship's mast or on the signal mast, in the port the national flag flies at the stern, and the jack , which often has its own design, flies at the bow . In some states the national flag at sea differs from the appearance of the usual flag (e.g. Great Britain ). With civilian ships the national flag is called the trade flag , with warships the sea war flag . In addition, flag officers use their own flags as command flags .

The national flag of the state in which a ship is located is placed under the starboard spreader or on the starboard side of the signal mast. Exactly so that in this case your own flag does not hang higher than the foreign one, the national is moved to the stern in the port. Flags generally only fly during the day and are caught at night. This custom of the flag parade - originally introduced to minimize the wear and tear on expensive flag cloth - is given great importance in some countries, while in other countries the flags can remain set at night. Showing false flags (for example a European flag on a German yacht or a pirate flag at sea) can lead to trouble with the water police or customs authorities.

"To remove the flag" means in nautical parlance the lowering of the national flag on warships or other ships involved in combat in order to indicate the surrender to the attacker . This custom developed from the cancellation of the sails, which of course could only be carried out with considerably greater expenditure of time and manpower, while the respective opponent kept the target under fire. National flags that are placed on top of each other can symbolize the dominance of the upper state, for example with captured ships.

All flags shown should be in perfect condition. The use of faded or tattered flags can be seen as disrespect.

Usage forms

Flags often symbolize groups and communities, such as party flags, national flags or city ​​flags do. Derived from this, national flags can also stand for other properties of the country, such as the national language. There are also flags that transmit messages, such as signal flags , or inform about situations, such as possible dangers while swimming on the beach. Today, the flag is widely used as an advertising medium or decoration of rooms and buildings.

Official flag of the Republic of Austria

National flags

Service flag of the German naval forces
Trade flag? Incontrast to the usual shape, the Swiss flag at sea is rectangular

Virtually all states have a state flag as a national symbol . The appearance of such flags is often stipulated in the constitution in the respective state. In modern flag science, the type of flag use is indicated by standardized grid symbols (FIAV symbols ? ). Depending on their use, flags are classified as follows: National flag on land and at sea

  • The civil flag ? emerged from the flags of the ships, with the help of which nationality could once be recognized. Today this refers to the form of the state flag that every citizen is allowed to use. It is usually the most famous version of the national flag.Civic flag
  • The trade flag ? is the flag that is waved at the stern of a merchant ship. In many nations, the trade flag is identical to the national flag.Trade flag
  • The service flag ? is the special form of a national flag that is reserved for the authorities of a country. Usually it differs from the national flag by an added state coat of arms.Service flag on land and at sea
  • The war flag ? , also known as the service flag of the armed forces, goes back to the stern flag of warships. Some nations differentiate between a flag of war on land (army flag) and a sea ​​war flag ? . A flag of war in no way means that there must be a state of war; it is also shown during maneuvers, for example.War flag on land and at sea War flag at sea

The head of state often has its own flag that is hoisted when they are present. For the German President , this is a black federal eagle on a square golden background with a red border in the special shape of a standard .

Nautical signal flag Alpha

Flags in signaling

Since flags are visible from a great distance, there are signal flags for the transmission of messages. The flag alphabet or the winker alphabet is used for this. This application is mostly carried out at sea to this day. Signal flags are also used in many other areas:

  • Railway systems , where signal flags are used, for example, when shunting
  • on guarded beaches, where a flag on the lifeguard tower indicates that it is occupied. There are also signals that, for example, prohibit swimming because of poor conditions.

Flags in sports

End of the race or training session in motorsport

On the one hand, regulations in many sports define the use of signal flags:

  • In motorsport , certain information, such as danger or disqualification , is displayed to the participants with flags .
  • In football , the assistant referees use flags.
  • In sailing a comprehensive Adapted will Flaggenalphabet used. When sailing regattas , the participating yachts either set their own, self-designed racing flag (for example Germania : red griffin on a white background, motto: Cave Grypem [Beware of the griffin!]), Or they pull in the national flag as a sign of their participation in the regatta. At the end of a successful season be the starboard - Saling so many racing flags set as race victories were won.
  • The alpha flag should always be set when diving , as this is required by law in international and sometimes also in national waters. It indicates that particular caution (e.g. for other watercraft) is required as there are divers in the water nearby. In addition, the Michigan diving flag can also be set, which is mandatory in large parts of North America, although the US Navy still uses the alpha flag for its diving operations.
  • In athletics , for example, stewards indicate the validity of an attempt with red (invalid) and white (valid) flags. In addition, the track judges or inverters indicate a rule violation by raising a yellow flag.
  • In judo , a green and a yellow flag are used by the table occupation during competitions. The green flag stands for an ongoing grab hold , while the yellow stands for an ongoing interruption of the fight. The flags are raised at the beginning of the handle or the interruption of the fight and lowered at the end of the handle or the interruption of the fight. The flags serve to indicate to the referee that the grab handle or the interruption of the fight has been noted. Since electronic displays are mainly used nowadays, flags are rarely used. However, in the rules of the German Judo Association, it is required to have two flags in reserve if the electronic display fails.
  • It is customary in international competitions, for example the Olympic Games , to honor the winning team by hoisting the national flag of the winner or the winning team.
  • Other flags are used to delimit the playing field, but are commonly referred to as flags , for example corner flags .

On the other hand, they are used by viewers and fans to express their sympathy for their own team or the athlete - despite the unclear legal situation , there has been a trend since the European Football Championship in 2008 to attach car flags to private vehicles .

In addition, winners often spontaneously carry a flag of their country with them on their laps of honor .

Party flags

Many political movements, such as political parties, have party flags that are displayed on public and internal occasions as a sign of belonging to a political group or idea. Like national flags, they have colors and symbols with specific statements. For example, traditionally the red of a party flag usually stands for a workers' party . Often the letter abbreviations of the political movement are used instead of a symbol.

Flags of international organizations

Many civil and military international organizations or non-governmental organizations fly their own flags. Significant international flags include the flags of the United Nations , NATO , the Organization of the Islamic Conference , the European flag and the Olympic rings . The most important and probably the first international flags are the flags of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement , as they have been recognized in modern international martial law for a long time and places marked with these flags must not be attacked.

Design of flags

Flags as body decorations

Flags are usually attached to objects, traditionally on flagpoles . But they can also be spread as a cloth over objects or wrap them with flags. Small flags are worn as patches on clothing and bags. Images of flags can be found on vehicles, on documents, on websites or as body decorations.


Flags, especially national flags, are usually rectangular. The aspect ratios can be very different. Square flags, such as the Swiss flag and the Vatican City flag , are rarer. Other forms are:


The proportions of the flags are an important feature, as different types of flags in some countries only differ in their aspect ratios. The triangular shape is referred to as a pennant , as is very often found in shipping . The use of flags as a painted or sewn emblem is also common . In addition, tricolors in particular are also used as decorative ribbons , borders or decorations for official letters.

Flag types

The most common, "normal" flag shape is the hoist or cross flag. In Central and Eastern Europe, especially in the German-speaking countries, vertical flags are also used. The reason for this is that the relatively strong winds that hoisting flags need to fully unfold in the interior are not frequent.

Flag Types.svg

The hoist flag or cross flag (No. 1 in the adjacent illustration) is the most common form of flag internationally and also in German-speaking countries. The other flag shapes are derived from it.

The portrait flag or flutter flag (No. 2) is a flag that is higher than it is wide. The display of the flag can remain the same (no. 2a) or change by turning horizontal stripes into vertical ones (no. 2b). If the flag bears an emblem, this either remains centered or is moved slightly upwards.

The cantilever flag or gallows flag (No. 3) is a portrait format flag that is not only attached to the side of the flagpole, but also to a boom attached to the mast. The flag is always unfolded even without wind.

The hanging flag , house flag or inclined flag (No. 4) is a vertical format flag that is hoisted from a horizontal flagstick that is usually attached to a building. The flag is hung in such a way that the topmost strip of the flag points away from the building.

In the case of the banner flag or simply the banner (No. 5), the also upright-format flag cloth is firmly connected to the cross bar from which it is hung vertically, from a vertical (No. 5a) or horizontal flagstick (No. 5b). The flag is usually hung in such a way that the topmost strip of the flag points to the left.

In Germany, the federal and federal service flags are only permitted in official use in the form of the (landscape format) hoisted flag and the banner, according to the order on the German flags .

Components of a flag

In order to clearly describe a flag, the individual parts of the cloth are clearly defined. These terms are often of nautical origin; However, there are also borrowings from other subject areas, such as coin studies . Flags have a front and a back. ( Averse and reverse ; cf. the numismatic technical terms Avers and Revers ) On most flags, the front and back are mirror images of each other. (Exceptional examples: flag of the Soviet Union , flag of Paraguay , flag of the Sahara Democratic Arab Republic ). It is common, except for some Arab flags, for the flagpole to be on the left when the observer is viewing the front.

Parts of a flag


Evolution of symbols

From the late 13th century onwards, cross flags were the dominant motif, which replaced the depiction of saints that had prevailed until then. These early flags were not national flags in the modern sense, they were not used on land and represented the sovereign or the state rather than its citizens. The medieval society, which was divided into stalls, used more guild or church flags, and these were often artistically unique items, some of which were decorated with appliquéd embroidery. During this time the Dannebrog was created , which is considered to be one of the oldest continuously used flags.

While heraldic flags were dominated by simple motifs in the 14th century, in the 15th and 16th centuries, especially in military flags, images with complicated, sometimes allegorical scenes became widespread. Coats of arms on white cloth were also popular. As this is unsuitable for practical recognition, there was a clear separation into two types of flags in the 17th century: a simple flag and one with a complicated coat of arms. This split is still valid today and can be seen in various national and service flags.

Common symbols and colors

Since national flags represent geographical , historical , cultural , religious , ethnic or ideological statements, some of which are transnational, there are also symbols and colors that appear in many flags at the same time and thus illustrate commonalities between the countries concerned.


While the flag of the Netherlands was the origin of the color division of the flag of Russia and thus of most of the Slavic national flags, the flag of France is the model for almost all other tricolors ('three-colored'), such as those of Italy , Ghana and Germany . Here the flag mostly served as a symbol of the bourgeoisie and the republic as a form of government in contrast to the absolutist monarchy .


The Christian cross represents the religion of Christianity . Many of today's European nations emerged in the late Middle Ages . During this time Christianity was a state-building basis. For this reason, the cross in its variants forms the basis of many flags and coats of arms in Europe. Most northern European countries use the Scandinavian cross , a Latin cross placed on the side .

The diagonally running St. Andrew's cross refers to the apostle Andrew and appears in the flags of Scotland , Jamaica and the Basque Country . The Russian naval flag also uses a St. Andrew's cross. The special form of the Burgundian St. Andrew's Cross was the Spanish war flag until the middle of the 19th century and then still a symbol of the Carlist movement .

The Byzantine or Orthodox double cross is the symbol of the Orthodox Church . The double cross is often used in traditionally Orthodox countries in Eastern Europe and on the Balkan Peninsula . The Slovakia used in their national flag such a cross.

The paw cross was the coat of arms of the Knights Templar . The Teutonic Order also used a similar symbol. The black Tatzenkreuz (Iron Cross) has been a symbol of the German army since the liberation wars and is still the national emblem of the Bundeswehr today . Four paw crosses can be found in the corners of the national flag of Georgia . A related form is the cross .

The red George Cross of St. George is part of various flags, for example in the flag of England . In addition, the Georgskreuz is among other things in the flag of Georgia and the flag of the German Scouts Saint George (DPSG).

The George Cross can be found alongside other crosses in the Union Jack , which was created through the union of Scotland and England . The flag of Ireland was added later. It is an overlay of the English St. George's Cross , the Scottish St. Andrew's Cross and the inclined Irish St. Patrick's Cross . Many national and service flags of former British colonies are based on the Union Jack or its modifications, the Blue , Red and White Ensign .

The swastika (swastika) has no Christian origin. It is the sun gear and much older. It was the central symbol of the party flag of the NSDAP and between 1933 and 1945 the basis of the flag of Germany . The Finnish and Polish military also used them. Nowadays it is only to be found in the Kuna Yala area and in the South and East Asian areas as a Buddhist symbol and is not the basis of a current national flag. However, in the upper corner of his personal standard , the Finnish President carries the blue and yellow freedom cross , which contains a swastika. It is derived from the old Finnish symbol Tursaansydän .

Heavenly bodies

Crescent moon

The crescent moon (as a flag symbol, despite its always crescent shape, also known as the crescent moon , especially as the emblem of the red crescent moon ) represents in most cases the religion of Islam as Hilal . For centuries the crescent was the symbol of the Ottoman Empire . Today the symbol is used in the Turkish flag , the flag of Pakistan and the flag of Tunisia , among others .

In some flags, crescent moons are used without any Islamic reference. In the flag of Singapore , the crescent moon symbolizes a young, emerging nation. In the Soyombo symbol of the flag of Mongolia, it symbolizes, together with the sun, the eternal life of the nation. In the flag of Nepal it stands together with the star for the royal family.

Full moon

In addition to the crescent moon, which is often used in Islamic countries, the full moon is also used in national flags. In the flag of Laos it appears as a white disk over the Mekong . In the flag of Palau it symbolizes the aspiration of the nation, and it also plays an important role in the tradition of the country.


A common symbol in national flags is the sun . However, their meaning is as diverse as their frequent occurrence on national flags. In most cases it is shown as a sun symbol, as in the flag of Argentina . In some cases it is only represented by a yellow colored area, as in the flag of Guinea .

In many cases, as in the flag of Namibia , it symbolizes the heat or warmth that emanates from it. Sometimes, as in the flag of Antigua and Barbuda , the rising sun is supposed to represent the dawn of a new era or epoch. The sun in the flag of Rwanda, on the other hand, represents the hoped-for enlightenment of the people. The star is of great historical importance in Japan , the land of the rising sun , and this is also reflected in the Japanese national flag .

Stars and constellations

Stars can have different meanings as a symbol. For example, they represent the number of provinces, a bright future or serve as religious symbols.

In some national flags, constellations are depicted to show their geographic location. For example, the flag of the US state of Alaska shows the North Star and the constellation of the Big Dipper, a partial image of the Big Bear .

The constellation of the southern cross is used in the national and provincial flags of several states in the southern hemisphere as a symbol of geographical location. These states and territories include Papua New Guinea and New Zealand or the Australian state of Victoria and the flag of the Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego ( Tierra del Fuego ). The flag of the Mercosur integration area also bears the Southern Cross.

The constellation in the flag of Brazil is symbolic . Here the sky is shown over Rio de Janeiro at the time of the proclamation of the republic. The image is as if the observer were in space and looking through the stars at Brazil .

Colors as a symbol of solidarity

The three South American countries Ecuador , Colombia and Venezuela use the Greater Colombian colors yellow, blue and red. These go back to the flag of the independence movement against Spain, which was first hoisted in 1806 by Francisco de Miranda . Yellow stood for the New World , blue for the Atlantic Ocean , which separates it from the Spanish terror that red stands for. It was the flag of Greater Colombia from 1813 to 1830 . That is why their colors are also known as Bolivarian colors ( Simón Bolívar ). The original flag is also known as the Miranda flag .

In 1823 the Central American Confederation was formed in the resistance against Spain , whose flag consisted of three horizontal stripes and the color sequence blue-white-blue, which are also known as Central American colors . This was designed based on the Argentine flag . After the collapse of the Confederation in 1838, the five now independent states of Costa Rica , El Salvador , Guatemala , Honduras and Nicaragua continued to use the colors and sometimes parts of the coat of arms in their national flags.

The other Central American states have a different historical background and chose different flag patterns.

Many Islamic states use the color green in their flags. Green was the color of the Fatimids and is considered the favorite color of Mohammed. The color green is a basic symbol of Islam. Examples are the flags of Saudi Arabia , Mauritania and Pakistan . The flag of the Organization of the Islamic Conference also has green as its basic color. Green as the color of the Prophet is also one of the four pan-Arab colors. The Pan-Arab colors black, white, green and red appeared in modern flags for the first time at the beginning of the 20th century in the Arabs' struggle for independence against the Ottoman Empire . Black and white are the colors of the Prophet, green is the color of Islam and also the color of its Fatimid descendants. The color of the Hashemite descendants is red. In addition, black and white are considered the colors of the Abbasids and Umayyads .

After the revolution in Egypt in 1952 and the deposition of the king, the color combination red, white and black was chosen as the basis of the flag of Egypt , leaving out green . Some Arab countries with a republican form of government such as Yemen , Syria and Iraq have adopted these colors as a sign of pan-Arabism . Monarchies such as Jordan and Kuwait mostly kept the old colors, including green.

The pan-African colors go back to the black founder of the Back-To-Africa movement, Marcus Garvey . Its colors were red, black and green. Later black was replaced by yellow, as the only traditionally independent black African country before the decolonization of Africa was Ethiopia and the flag of Ethiopia is a horizontal green-yellow-red tricolor . The Pan-African colors were first used by Ghana in 1957 . As a rule, the colors have additional symbols. In the flag of Chad and the flag of the Central African Republic , the colors are mixed with those of the French tricolor .

The Pan-Slavic colors white, blue and red go back to the flag of Russia created by Peter the Great , whose structure is based on the flag of the Netherlands , but its colors are based on the coat of arms of the Principality of Moscow . Many Slavic countries also use these colors as a sign of their attachment to Pan-Slavism . The color combination is found very often under national flags, but can be traced back to different models. Other countries took the Union Jack, the flag of the United States or the French tricolor as models.

plants and animals

Plants and animals are common figures in heraldry.

Common heraldic animals are lions , bears , leopards , eagles , cranes , dolphins, rams or bulls, but also mythical creatures such as the griffin , the unicorn , the dragon , the double-headed eagle and the dragon . The condor appears in South American flags and coats of arms , while early revolutionary flags of the United States often feature the rattlesnake . The animals mostly symbolize values ​​assigned to them such as bravery, endurance or strength, although animals are not necessarily shown that occur in the respective country, such as the English lion. Others go back to real-life animals that stood for the family of a ruling house or a single ruler, such as the Berlin bear .

In some cases, however, animals are also shown that occur in the country of the flag and therefore describe the nature of the country or region, such as the bird of paradise in the flag of Papua New Guinea . There are also depictions of domestic animals shown to underscore their importance to the local economy , such as the sheep in the Falkland Islands flag .

Plants are also common national symbols. Examples are the Lebanese cedar , the fir of the Norfolk Island , the oak , the palm tree , the maypole , the rose , the lilies of the French kings ( Fleur-de-Lis ), the Canadian maple leaf or the Bauhinien blossom in the flag of Hong Kong .

Weapons and shields

Shields and weapons are common symbols in coats of arms and flags. The European arms lead or led mainly shields as a reference to the feudal power structure of the late Middle Ages and their relationship to chivalry . A traditional European arms almost always shows one or more shields that the heraldry as a coat of arms , respectively. The shield originally stood for the protection that the sovereign gives the country with his shield.

The depiction of weapons such as spear , bayonet , pike , sword , rifle or artillery symbolizes the defensive character of a state or the warlike background that led to the founding of the state. The merely defensive shield does not necessarily indicate a warlike statement, but is rather a traditional coat of arms symbol, at least in Europe, which meanwhile no longer has any meaning, except that it is a traditional European Christian symbol.

In the national flags of the African states Kenya and Swaziland as well as formerly Lesotho shields with weapons are depicted. The shields and weapons (mostly spears) are traditional objects of the respective population. They all symbolize the ability to defend themselves and the will to defend the people.

The sword was the first consciously invented weapon that was not conceived for the purpose of hunting , but solely for the purpose of war , i.e. the killing of people. The depiction of the sword often suggests a warlike background to the founding of the state.

In Islamic countries, the sword points to the sword of Ali (son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed ), a symbol of righteousness, but also the ability to defend themselves and tough justice of Islam or Sharia . The coat of arms of Oman , which is also shown in the national flag, shows a dagger and two crossed swords. However, they are the symbol of the Said dynasty, which has ruled since 1746 .

More modern weapons also appear in newer flags. For example, the flag of Haiti depicts cannons and rifles from the time of the island nation's struggle for independence. More specific depictions of weapons, such as the Kalashnikov , appear in flags of the 20th century . The Kalashnikov is used in the flags of former colonies in Africa such as Mozambique and symbolizes the struggle of the mostly Marxist liberation movements .

Geographical representations

Geographical features or shapes of a country are symbolized in many flags. As a rule, they are topographically correct or stylized representations of the location or shape of a country.

For example, Gabon and Nauru represent their geographical position on the equator in their national flags. The flag of Naurus is in principle also a stylized map by showing the position of the island (star) in the Pacific Ocean (blue background), south of the equator (yellow stripe) is pictured.

In the flag of the Republic of Cyprus , the shape of the island is shown topographically . The outline of Kosovo can be found on its flag , and the flag of Bangladesh showed the outline of the country in the same way in the red disk until 1972. The map has been removed here, presumably in order to get a simplified representation of the national flag.

Other states use a simplified or stylized form of the representation of a map on their national flag. The stars in the Tuvalu flag represent the geographically correct location of the main islands, but this representation is only north when the flag is hoisted upright. In the Vanuatu flag , the yellow Y is intended to reflect the shape of the archipelago, here too the representation is only northed when the flag is raised on edge.

Stars and Stripes - flags modeled on the USA

The Stars and Stripes of the US flag emerged from the American independence movement . The stars symbolize the 50 federal states , the stripes the 13 founding states . The US flag served as a template for national flags of other states. The flag of Malaysia (here the stripes for the Malaysian states) and the Uruguay (here the stripes for the nine departments at the time of independence) are similar in symbolism . Due to deep historical ties to the USA, the US flag also served as a model for the flags of Cuba , Liberia and Puerto Rico , but stars and stripes have different meanings here.

Communist symbols

Hammer and sickle and red star , together with the color red, represent communism . They symbolize the workers and peasants as well as a classless society. The most famous and oldest flag with this symbolism was the flag of the Soviet Union , the first version of which dates back to 1923.

After the establishment of socialist systems of government in other countries, the Soviet flag was taken as a model in some cases, and variations in different versions emerged. In other cases, the previous national flags were only changed with socialist symbols, for example replacing the national coat of arms as in Hungary or adding a red star to the Mongolian Soyombo symbol . Communist party flags also often use these symbols.

Traditional patterns

In three successor states of the former Soviet Union , traditional patterns of the country are shown on the lie-sided in the national flag. Five traditional carpet patterns, so-called guls, are shown in the Turkmen flag . The flag of Kazakhstan shows a weaving pattern, which is supposed to refer to folk art, and the flag of Belarus also shows a traditional ornament.

See also

Portal: Flag Studies  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of Flag Studies


  • Jan de Vries: Old Norse etymological dictionary . Volume 1, Leiden 1958.
  • Friedrich Kluge : Etymological dictionary of the German language. Volume 425, p. 297, 2002.
  • W. Smith, O. Neubecker: Coats of arms and flags of all nations . Battenberg Verlag, Munich 1980, ISBN 3-87045-183-1 .
  • Brian Leigh Davis: Flags & Standards of the Third Reich . Macdonald & Jane's, London 1975. ISBN 0-356-04879-9 .
  • Ottfried Neubecker: Heraldry . Wolfgang Krüger Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1977. ISBN 3-8105-1306-7 .
  • Derkwillem Visser: flags - coats of arms - hymns . Battenberg, Munich 1990. ISBN 3-87045-230-7 .
  • KL Jott: Flags of this world . Verlag EDITION XXL, Franconian-Crumbach 2006. ISBN 978-3-89736-710-4 .
  • Peter Häberle: National Flags - Citizen Democratic Identity Elements and International Identification Symbols. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-428-12802-0 .

Web links

Commons : Flag  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: flag  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Flag  - Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. cf. de Vries
  2. according to Kluge
  3. a b c d e Hans-Ulrich Herzog, Georg Hannes: Lexicon flags and coats of arms. Bibliographisches Institut Leipzig, Leipzig 1990, ISBN 3-323-00263-6 .
  4. a b German Flag Society: Flag or Flag? , accessed December 21, 2016.
  5. ^ Brian Leigh Davis: Flags & standards of the Third Reich, Macdonald & Jane's, London 1975. ISBN 0-356-04879-9
  6. ^ Ottfried Neubecker: Heraldry. Wolfgang Krüger Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1977. ISBN 3-8105-1306-7
  7. "Flag" in Duden online. Retrieved April 8, 2020 .
  8. a b c d Yacht , 6/2018, page 54ff
  9. Svante Domizlaff, Alexander Rost: Germania - Die Yachten des Haus Krupp, page 68
  10. a b c d e German Flag Society e. V. (DGF), Flag Types , accessed on February 20, 2012
  11. ^ German Federal Ministry of the Interior, domestic protocol of the federal government: hoisting flag , accessed on February 20, 2012
  12. ^ German Federal Ministry of the Interior, domestic protocol of the federal government: portrait flag , accessed on February 20, 2012
  13. ^ German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Inland Protocol of the Federal Government: Auslegerflagge , accessed on February 20, 2012
  14. a b German Federal Ministry of the Interior, domestic protocol of the federal government: hanging flag , accessed on February 20, 2012
  15. German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Inland Protocol of the Federal Government: Permitted forms of the federal flag , accessed on February 20, 2012