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Canton – any quarter of a flag, but commonly means the upper hoist (left) quarter

Charge – a figure or symbol appearing in the field of a flag

Field – the background of a flag; the colour behind the charges

Fimbriation – the placement of small stripes of colour around common charges or ordinaries, usually in order for them to stand out from the background, e.g. the white lines around the red cross on the Union Jack

Fly – the half or edge of a flag farthest away from the flagpole. This term also sometimes refers to the horizontal length of a flag.

Hoist – the half or edge of a flag nearest to the flagpole. This term also sometimes refers to the vertical width of a flag


For information regarding the flags of individual countries, see the relevant "World Geography" file

Flags of other regions

Flag of East Germany had a hammer and a pair of dividers

Flag of Yugoslavia was blue, white and red stripes, with a five-pointed red star in the centre

Flag of Zaire was a yellow circle with a hand holding a torch, on a green background

The flower on the Hong Kong flag is the Orchid Tree (Bauhinia Blakeana) is named after the British Governor of Hong Kong from 1898 to 1903, Sir Henry Blake, a keen botanist who discovered it

Flag of Corsica is white with a Moor’s head in the middle

Flag of Sardinia is white with a red cross and four Saracen’s heads

Flag of Sicily is bisected diagonally into regions coloured red and yellow, and has a triskelion in its middle, the (winged) head of Medusa and three wheat ears

The flag of the Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands is a vertical tricolour of three equal bands of white, blue, and yellow. The state flag includes the Coat of arms of the Canary Islands in the central band. Coat of arms has two dogs

The flag of the now-defunct Empire of Manchukuo had a mustard yellow field with four horizontal stripes of different colors in the upper-left corner

The flag of the Commonwealth of Nations consists of the Commonwealth symbol in gold on a blue field. The symbol centres on a globe, representing the global nature of the Commonwealth and the breadth of its membership. The globe is surrounded by 61 radiating, approximately quadrilateral, spears, which form a 'C' for 'Commonwealth'

Asean flag – set upon a blue background, ten paddy or rice stalks are drawn in the middle of a red circle with white circumference

The CIS flag is light blue in colour with a white arcade like design at the centre of it and a golden circle in the middle

Flag of Anguilla consists of a Blue Ensign with the British flag in the canton, charged with the coat of arms of Anguilla in the fly. The coat of arms consists of three dolphins

Flag of Catalonia is known as the Senyera. Four red stripes on a golden background

Flag of Ibiza has four castles

Flag of Gibraltar is two horizontal bands of white and red with a three-towered red castle in the centre of the white band; hanging from the castle gate is a gold key centred in the red band. Montis Insignia Calpe – ‘Insignia of the Mountain of Calpe’ is on Gibraltar coat of arms. Mons Calpe was the Latin name of the Rock of Gibraltar

New Caledonia has two official national flags – the tricolore of France and the Kanak flag (Kanak are the indigenous Melanesian inhabitants of New Caledonia)

Flag of Christmas Island includes the Southern Cross and a golden bosun bird

Flag of Montserrat is a Blue Ensign with the Union Flag in the canton and the Coat of arms of Montserrat in the fly. The arms feature Erin, the female personification of Ireland, and the golden harp

Flag of Abkhazia – green and white stripes with a white open hand

USA states

For information regarding the flags of the USA states, see World Geography - North America

British Isles

In 1606, a new flag to represent the regal union between England and Scotland was specified in a royal decree, according to which the flag of England (a red cross on a white background, known as St George's Cross), and the flag of Scotland (a white saltire on a blue background, known as the Saltire or St Andrew's Cross), would be joined together, forming the flag of Great Britain and first union flag. The current and second Union Jack dates from 1801 with the Act of Union 1800, which merged the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The new design added a red saltire, the cross of Saint Patrick, for Ireland

Saltire – Saint Andrew’s Cross. Appears on the flag of Scotland

Harp – represents Northern Ireland on Union flag

Saint Piran’s flag – flag of Cornwall. White cross on a black background. Flag of Cornwall is said to represent tin and its ore

Saint Petroc’s flag – flag of Devon. White cross on a green background

Flag of Northumberland – red lines on a gold background

Flag of St David is a gold cross on a black field

Flag of Jersey is white with a diagonal red cross extending to the corners of the flag and in the upper quadrant, surmounted by a yellow Plantagenet crown, the badge of Jersey

Flag of Guernsey consists of the red cross of St. George with an additional gold cross within it

Flag of Shetland is sky blue with a white cross

Flag of Orkney is red with a blue and yellow cross

White ensign is flown on British Royal Navy ships and shore establishments. It consists of a red St George's Cross on a white field with the Union Flag in the upper canton. The White ensign is also flown by the Royal Yacht Squadron and ships escorting the Queen

Red ensign is flown by the Merchant Navy

Flag of suffragette movement – green (for hope), purple (for dignity) and white (for purity)


‘Old Glory’ – US flag, first used on the brig Charles Doggett in 1831

US navy jack consists of a rattlesnake superimposed across 13 alternating red and white stripes with the motto, ‘Don't Tread On Me’A state flag is a variant of a national flag. In some countries state flag is a more complex version of the national flag, often featuring the national coat of arms or some other emblem as part of the design

Flag of the District of Columbia consists of three red stars above two red bars on a white background. It is based on the design of the coat of arms of George Washington

Flag of New York City is a vertical tricolor of blue, white, and orange charged in the center bar with municipal seal in blue

Some countries have state ensigns, separate flags for use by non-military government ships such as coast guard vessels

Flag of Convenience – flag of one country, flown by a ship owned by a citizen of another country. The ship owner can thereby often avoid taxes and make registration easier; the country providing the flag charges money for that service

Ensigns are usually required to be flown when entering and leaving harbour, when sailing through foreign waters, and when the ship is signalled to do so by a warship

Jacks are additional national flags flown by warships (and certain other vessels) at the head of the ship

Flag upside down – ship in distress

Submarines fly the Jolly Roger on return to port

Blue Peter is flown when a ship is about to leave port

Military hospitals fly yellow flags