What is Vexillology?

Vexillology is the study of flags. The word is a synthesis of the Latin word 'vexillum'  (flag) and the Greek word 'logos' (study). On this page, we want to give you a bit more insight into the wonderful world of flag design.

Vexillology Explained

Vexillology Basics


A canton is 1/4th of a flag's field, usually in the top-left corner. This is also described as 'canton hoist' or 'canton sinister'. Popular examples are the Australian and New Zealand flags, which feature the British Union jack in their canton.

This is a hold-over from their days as a colony, and many debates are ongoing on designing a new flag for these countries that does not feature the British flag.


A 'Field' refers to the full front of the flag. A flag can be described as being 'on a field of red' to describe a solid color flag.

Solid field national flags are rare in the wider world. The last official 'one color' flag was that of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, which consisted of a green field. The flag was replaced by the old Kingdom of Libya flag after Ghadaffi's fall in 2011.

Sinister or Hoist

The Sinister or Hoist side refers to the flag's left side when seen from the front. This side is hung from the pole or 'hoist'

Dextera or Fly

Opposite of that, the Dextera or Fly side of the flag is the side 'flying' in the wind - the right half of the flag when seen from the front

Describing a Flag

Flag Types


Pales refers to flags divided along the fly. Popular flags include the republic tricolors like those of Italy, France, Belgium, and various South-African nations


The Fesses flags, with horizontal bands, represent a focus on authority over republicanism. They are most common in old European monarchies such as Austria, Germany, Russia and others.


As mentioned above, cantons are often associated with colonial holdings or sub-flags. Popular examples include the British Naval Jack or old British colony flags.


Quarterly flags feature checkered patterns, often combined with an English Cross. Popular examples include the flag of the Dominican Republic and various German states.


Border flags feature a trim along the edges - often associated with a heraldic device


Bends flags are split across their diagonal. Popular examples include revolutionary anarchist flags, or the flag of Brunei.


The saltire flag is crossed across both her diagonals - popular examples include Scotland and Gascony.


The Chevron flag features a triangle crossing half of the flag. Popular examples include the flag of Cuba and various other island states.


The Pall flag is a combination of the Chevron with the Saltire. The flag of South-Africa is a great example

Symmetric Cross

The Symmetric, or English Cross, is split across both the hoist and fly side. The flag of England is a good example.

Nordic Cross

The Scandinavian Cross, or Nordic Cross as it is commonly referred to, is a cross with the hoist vertical placed on 1/3rd of the flag's length. This flag is used by the Nordic Countries.

Greek Cross

The Greek Cross is sometimes wrongfully referred to as the Swiss Cross. This symbol grew from the Orthodox Christian church and predates the formation of Switzerland by at least a couple centuries.

The Principles of Good Flag Design

Keep it Simple

(Pictured: Flag of Japan)

The Rising Sun is a national symbol of Japan, and is wonderfully represented in this simple but effective flag.

Use Meaningful Symbolism

(Pictured: Flag of Turkey)

The Crescent and Star are the symbols of the Ummah, or muslim people of the world. The red and white refer to Turkey specifically as one nation under God.

Use only two or three basic colors

The tricolore, or tri-band Republican flag of France represents the national values of the French Revolution: Equality, Brotherhood and Freedom

No Lettering or Seals

US State and county flags are notorious for offending vexillology principles, though a lot of reworked flags are underway.

Be Distinctive, or Be Related

The Flag of Italy references the French Revolution as the birth of it's own Republic, but switches out the French colour for decidedly Italian themes.

A word from our founder

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