General glossary1
Glossary of Heraldic terms

List of abbreviations





me.- Middle English

mhg.- Middle High German

of.-Old French

General glossary

Ahlespiess A polearm common to German-speaking areas, particularly used by the Swiss and Habsburgs: the wooden shaft is relatively short, and the weapon is equipped with a long square rod that is sharpened at the end for thrusting. It could be used either to stab, or, if caught out of a close formation, as an effective anti-armor club.

Aketon / houqueton Part of military costume in the fourteenth century. A linen or leather jacket, worn under the mail hauberk, or if made sufficiently thickly, it could be used alone.

Arbalest An extremely heavy crossbow, usually with a metal bow. Arbalests were too heavy to draw by hand, and required a windlass or cranequin.

Arquebus A short musket like early firearm usually used in conjunction with pikes. The weapons were loaded at the muzzle, with smoothbore barrels.

Aventail Part of armour, a kind of mail curtain, fastened to the edges of the helmet with staples called vervelles. It covered the neck and the shoulders. Sometimes called as camail.

Backsword A sword with only one cutting edge, which has an unsharpened "back" spine. The weapon is extremely similar to the messer, with the exception that the messer is usually made with a slight curve, whereas the backsword is almost always straight.

Bard, or Barding A term for horse armor, which could be made from a variety of materials, including mail and plate.

Bardiche, or Berdiche A polearm with a long chopping blade, often with a slight curve. Numerous varieties of this basic weapon existed under a score of different names.

Bascinet Open faced helmet. Its skull part could be conical or globular. Sometimes it was worn with a visor, and almost always with an aventail.

Baselard A dagger/short sword with an H-shaped hilt.

Bastard Sword see longsword.

Bill A pole weapon with a large chopping head, and often with a hook and backspike. Characteristically used by English infantry.

braies/breeches(engl.)/bruech(germ.)/braccae (lat.) Underpants, usually composed of two parts. The chausses were united with it only from the fifteenth century.

Brigantine/Coat of Plates/Lamellar Armor for the torso and occasionally the legs made from the combination of leather or fabric and a series of carefully linked plates. Lamellar was common in Eastern Europe, whereas Brigantine, where plates were attached to an outer leather or fabric, was more common in Central and Western Europe.

Buckle - a fastener (sometimes used merely as an ornament) for a belt, girdle, etc. that is attached at one of its ends to the buckle and secured by the buckle's pointed tongue, which passes through a hole near the other end.

Cabochon (from French caboche, knob). A stone cut with a smooth, rounded surface, with no facets and highly polished. Usually it is cut from an opaque or translucent stone (but some emeralds, amethysts and garnets have been so cut), or a stone with a special optical effect (opal, moonstone). The style of cut was used in Antiquity and continued until the 15th century when it began to be displaced by faceting. Cabochons are of various shapes, usually circular or oval, but sometimes rectangular or triangular. Carbuncle (almandine) is among the stones that are most often cut as cabochon. The stone so cut is said to be cut en cabochon.

Caftan Characteristic part of Eastern costume. Two variations are known, one is cut in front, shorter and more tight fitting, the other was more loose, and cut in one side at front. Both had a lower cut at the skirt part, as it was practical for riding.

Camail See aventail

Cameo – a gemstone having layers of different colours, such as cornelian or sardonyx, cut to show in low relief the design and background in contrasting colours. It is the opposite of an intaglio.

Camise (camisia, lat.)- Undergarment worn directly on the body.

chaperon/schaperon(germ.)/cappa(lat.)/chaperone (it.) The hood of the fourteenth century, composed of three main parts. The liripipe was its hanging part, the guleron was the neckpiece, and around the face the visagière.

Chaplet - a type of head ornament in the form of a garland, wreath, or ornamented band, to be worn around the head. Chaplets were made of metal with repoussé decoration or embellished with gemstones and pearls. In heraldry

chausses/tights(engl.)/hose(mhg.)/caliga(lat.) In the fourteenth century the tights were composed of two separate legs. They could be either fastened to the lower part of the pourpoint with cords, or were tucked under the braies.

Cinqueda A very large dagger with a wide triangular blade. Extremely popular in 15-16th-century Italy.

Cirotesce (span) 14th-century Spanish term for gauntlets.

Clasp – a type of fastener made of two parts, usually on a hook on one piece and a slot on the other. It is used to fasten a girdle or elt, the parts being attached to opposite ends of the piece to be joined.

Clava Mace or club, 14th-century Dalmatia.

Cloisonné (French) – Occasionally called ‘cell enamelling.’ The technique of decoration by enamelling in which a design is outlined on a metal plate with bent wire or metal strips of rectangular-section wire that are affixed edgewise to the metal base and the spaces filled in with coloured enamels that are then fused. The wire or strips are held in position by soldering.

Cluster brooch – a type of brooch in the form of ring brooch but having the centre space decorated with a large central gemstone surrounded by a cluster of smaller gemstones and pearls. Such broochews were a development of the 14th century.

Coiffe A headdress type: net made of gold or silver threads, decorated with gems or pearls.

Cord belt Thick belt worn on the waist, usually with a caftan.

Coronet – a small or inferior type of crown, especially one worn by a person of high rank but lower than a sovereign, and usually made without arches.See in heraldry

Cornettes or cornes headdress with horn-like appearance. One variation of it, called escoffion, appears in Central East Europe by the middle of the fourteenth century, according to pictorial sources. Some scholars claim the wife of Charles VI, Isabelle of Bavaria, introduced this headdress type, while some say it is original in France.

Cotehardie/coathardie (engl.) Tight-fitting garment for both male and female usage. For women it was cut with slimming seams from the shoulders to the hips, and always reached the ground. Its sleeves could be varied (long, short, tight or loose). The cotehardie had two characteristic pocket slits in front. The variation worn by men was very close fitting in waist.

Cotte/kirtle (eng.) Originally a coat armour in the Crusades from the twelfth century, worn to protect armour against the heat. Later it became a long dress for travellers, and from it the undergarment of the thirteenth century had developed. The everyday undergarment of the thirteenth century. Its tight-fitting, long sleeves were always cut in one with the body part. In the fourteenth century the lower part of the sleeves was supported with buttons. In the fourteenth century it was still used as an "unfashionable" garment of old, university people, officers, etc.

Cotte d'armes /coat armour (eng.)/ lentner(germ.) Garment worn over the hauberk or partial plate armour, made of cloth.

Coudières/ tippets (engl.) The long, hanging parts of the sleeves of cotehardie.

Couteau-Coutelace/Culter-Cultello (lat) A knife or dagger. It is important to remember that in the middle ages, these weapons were commonly much larger than their modern counterparts.

Couters/cowters (me.) Plate defences for the elbow.

Crackowes / poulaines. The fourteenth century name of pointed shoes. The explanation of the name was the derivation of the shoes from Poland. Armored foot plates were also often made in the same pointed manner.

Craoseach (ir) 13-14th century Irish term for a long spear. Unlike the javelin, this weapon was not designed to be thrown.

Crest heraldic term, in the time of the "living heraldry" it meant a decoration of the great helm usually, but not exclusively, bearing part of the coat-of-arms of its wearer. See in heraldry

Crown - a royal head-dress of sovereignty, worn by a monarch or consort, usually circular in form, has an open centre and is characterized in most cases by vertical ornaments (for example fleurs-de-lis) projecting upward from the rim and by two or four arches topped at the intersection by some symbolic ornament (e.g. cross). There are several types, depending upon the occasion for their use: coronation crown, used only at coronation, state crown, worn at other state occasions; personal crown; wedding or nuptial crown, and so on.

Cuirass/coracia Armor for the upper half of the body which could be made of several materials, and which usually protected the arms as well as the torso.

Cuirbouilli leather hardened by boiling it several times either in water, or in oil, or in wax.

Cyclas 1.Cloak with round cut, decorated with fur around the neckline. 2. coat armour in the thirteenth century, the same as the surcotte.

Dart/Darda/Dardel/Dardos See Javelin

Deka (cz./pol)/Dolch(germ.) Dagger.

Demi-braces/rerebraces Plate armour for the upper arm.

Diadem - an ornamented band, made of metal, worn around the brow of a man or woman, sometimes as a badge of sovereignty.

doublet/wams (germ.)- Short overgarment, a variation of the pourpoint. Originally it was worn under the pourpoint, and could be cut with or without sleeves.

Enamel – a pigment of vitreous nature composed usually of powdered potash and silica, bound with oil, coloured with metallic oxides, and applied to gold, silver, copper, glass, etc., as a surface decoration by low-temperature firing. The French term is émail.

Enseigne - a type of badge, worn on the hat or cap of a man of prominence, that evolved from the medieval pilgrim badge. Some were worn pinned on the underside of the rim of a turned-up hat, but most had loops at the edge or pierced holes so as to be sewn to the head-dress. Such pieces were made often of gold, with enamelled decoration or an inlaid cameo, and occasionally were embellished with an encircling band of gemstones.

épaulieres/pauldrons (engl.) A more developed form of shoulder-armor, with four or five steel plates adjusted together to allow as free movement of the arm as possible.

escoffion See cornettes.

Escut (fr)/Escudos(spa) Shield, usually meant as a cavalry shield.

Estoc/Tuck A long, straight stabbing sword designed for use against heavy armor.

Fibula – a type of ancient garment-fastener brooch consisting usually of a straight pin that is coiled to form a spring and extended back to form a bow and a catch-plate to secure the pin. A fibula is sometimes referred to as a ‘safety-pin brooch’.

Filigree – a type of decoration on metalware made by use of fine wire, plain, twisted or plaited. The wire was usually of gold or silver and was used to form a delicate and intricate design. It was executed in tow styles: the wire was affixed by soldering to a metal base, this method having been used in Byzantine, Carolingian, Ottonian, Roman and Anglo-Saxon jewellery, and used later in the 13th century in Germany and Italy; and the wire was used without a metal foundation, thus forming an openwork design. The latter method was characteristic of European jewellery until the 15th century. Filigree was used on Jewish marriage rings, Spanish and Portuguese peasant jewellery. In England it is found on some mourning rings.

Filigree enamel - a type of decoration in the manner of cloisonné enamelling but having the cloisons made of twisted wire (rather than flat strips of metal) soldered to the base, and filled in with opaque enamel. After the powdered enamel in the spaces is fused and, upon cooling, has contracted, the wire shows above the surface.

Flail A mace that has the weight connected to the handle by a chain. Commonly called a "morning star" when the weight is spiked, though this may not be historically accurate. In Bohemia, this usually refers to a huge two-handed version that had a short, (~1.5 feet) wooden iron-wrapped weight connected to a 5-8 foot-long handle, which was capable of killing a plate-armored man in a single blow, but was very slow and heavy.

Flambard/Flamberge Not a sword type of its own, but often used to describe a great-sword with a wavy blade. Originated as a way of mocking one particular french noble's habit of carrying an incredibly large blade with him.

Gambeson A loose shirt worn under the mail hauberk in the thirteenth century, and in the beginning of the fourteenth. Later it was replaced by the houqueton/aketon.

Gauntlets Mail or plate defences for the hand.

Genuillieres Plate pieces to protect the knee.

Gipon A variation of the pourpoint in the second part of the fourteenth century, with padded chest, buttons in front. It was supported with long, close fitting sleeves.

Glaive/gisarme/sudlice(cz.,pol,Lith.) A pole weapon with a spear-like cutting blade, usually single-edged and relatively light. Commonly used on horseback by Lithuanian and late Byzantine cavalry.

Godentag(flem) See Bill.

Gorget/Gorgiere(fr) A plate armor defense designed to protect the neck (french gorge = throat).

Great helmet A fully closed, heavy helmet, usually worn for tournaments or in battles.

Great sword Term for a sword that was sufficiently long and heavy that it required two hands. Usually designed for cutting, but later also modified for thrusting into the gaps of plate armor.

Greaves/jambard Plate pieces to protect the lower leg, usually in front, then later in back as well.

Guard chain These chains were used to hold the sword and dagger or the great helm of a knight, in order not to loose them in battle.

Haces/Hache/Hachete A war axe for infantry, used in one hand.

Halbard A long pole weapon, usually with an axe blade, a long spike (which could be relatively short for stabbing, or made long and edged like a sword blade), and a backspike. Used widely and to great effect against cavalry by the Swiss before they shifted to the pike.

Hat If it is pointed and supported with turned-up brim, usually characterizes Eastern people.

Hauberk A mail shirt that varied in length, but in the fourteenth century usually did not reach the knees.

Hérigaut A coat-like garment, cut in front, with long, loose sleeves, which had two-three stripes around their armhole, made of different coloured cloth.

Houce A long cloak, derived from the thirteenth-century garnache. It was often furred and had two characteristically "tongues" of a different coloured cloth at the neck.

Insignia Tokens of secular or spiritual status, power, rank.

Intaglio A gemstone engraved below the surface so that the apparent elevations of the design are hollowed out and an impression from the design yields an image in relief. The background is not cut away, but is left in the plate of the highest areas of the design. It is sometimes called ‘hollow relief’ and is the opposite of a cameo.

Jack/Jaque See aketon, but this usually refers to the garment worn on its own rather than with mail or plate.

Jambard See greaves.

Javelin A relatively short spear that was sometimes designed purely for throwing, but could usually be used either for throwing or for fighting at close quarters.

Jupon See gipon.

Kettle hat Open faced helmet type with a broad brim.

Lance/Lancea/Lançar(spa) A heavy spear used by cavalry, usually held under the arm ("couched") while charging.

Lapidarium (from Latin lapis - stone) – a very wide-spread book in the later Middle Ages on the physical and symbolic properties of stones, gems and minerals.

Lentner See coat armour.

liripipe The long, hanging part of a chaperon.

Longsword A sword that had the length of a greatsword, but which could be used in either one or two hands. Alternately called a "bastard sword" or "hand and a half sword."

Mace A rod or stick with a heavy weight at one end.

Mall/Maul A specialized, extremely heavy hammer-like mace used occasionally by English knights, particularly during the Hundred Years War.

Mantle Here used to indicate a part of royal costume, a long and loose cloak, often trimmed with ermine, and clasped with a cloakpin in the middle.

Messer-Langesmesser/Parasztkés(hung) "Long knife" or "peasant knife," this weapon was a single-edged sword, usually with a very slight curve and a long crosspiece.

Mitre A kind of folding cap, consisting of two like parts, each stiffened by a lining and rising to a peak, these are sewn together on the sides, but are united above by a piece of material that can fold together. Two lappets trimmed on the ends with fringe hang down from the back. The right to wear the mitre belongs by law only to the pope, the cardinals, and the bishops. The giving of the mitre is a ceremony in the consecration of a bishop. A large number of mitres of the later Middle Ages have been preserved, of which many have very costly ornamentation: embroidery, rich bands (aurifrisia), pearls, precious stones, small ornamental disks of the precious metals. A late medieval mitre in St. Peter’s at Salzburg is ornamented, besides several hundred large and small pearls, with about five hundred more or less costly precious stones; it weighs over five and a half pounds. Similar mitres are also mentioned in the inventory of Boniface VIII. Mitra preciosa is a special kind of mitre used for most solemn occasions; cf. also tiara.

Morning Star/Morgenstern(germ) See Flail, also a long spiked club, popular in the 16th century and used extensively by the Habsburgs.

Morse A type of clasp primarily for fastening a cope in front, for use by the clergy and decorated with a representation of a religious subject. Such clasps are often very large, known examples being from 12.5 to 17.5 cm in diameter, and are of various materials and shapes.

Nebulé/krüseler,(germ.) Headdress popular and spread in Germany, Austria, Bohemia, Hungary, the Low Countries and England, while absent in France. Its French/ English name came from the that of a heraldic device of the same look. The headdress itself was composed of several fine veils, with frilled edges. The veils were folded together and were applied around the face.

Niello – an inlay used in decorating in black on silver (infrequently on gold) that is somewhat related to champlevé work except that the effect is metallic rather than vitreous. The process involved engraving the design into a metal plate, then filling the indented portions with a powedered black matt alloy made of metallic sulphides, together with a flux, after which the piece was heated until the alloy melted (at 1200° C) and became fused in the grooves and depressions of the design; the piece, when cooled, was scraped and polished until the niello was removed except in the then contrasting design.

Orb - a globe of gold encircled by a band (equator), edged with pearls, and set with rubies, emeralds and sapphires, joined by a band (meridian) arching across the top and surmounted by large ametist above which is a jeweled cross. A part of coronation regalia, it is placed in the left hand of the Sovereign during the coronation as a symbol of Kingly power and justice.

Palettes Shoulder pieces composed of metal plates.

Pauldrons See épaulieres.

Pavise A shield for infantry with a long central spine. Usually rather large.

Plackard The plastron or upper front part of a surcot ouvert, often furred or made entirely of fur.

Poleyne Plate defense for the knee.

Pommel Weight on the handle of a sword, used to balance the weapon and for striking ("Pummelling").

Poulaines See crackowes.

Pourpoint/wams (germ.) Originally a coat armour, substituting in this function the cotte d'armes for a while in the fourteenth century. it was tight, fitting, cut without sleeves and was shorter than the hauberk worn under it. Later on several other variations of it hasd developed, no longer worn as coat armours. See doublet, gipon, jaque.

Regalia the emblems and symbols of regal authority, such as the crown, sceptre, orb, finger rings, etc.

Repoussé (often called embossing) – a technique of producing relief decoration on a metal plate by punching and hammering thin metal from the reverse in order to raise the design on the front. The metal plate is sometimes turned over so that some embossing can be done on the front to enhance the desired relief design.

Rerebraces Plate defence for the upper arm.

Ring brooch – a type of brooch in the form of a complete ring to which is usually hinged a horizontal pin slightly longer than the diameter of the brooch. The point of the pin rests on the ring opposite the hinge, and the brooch is worn by pulling the fabric up inside the ring, passing the pin through it twice and then drawing the fabric down so that it holds the pin in place.

Riveting – the process of joining two pieces of metal with a rivet (a headed pin) by passing the shank through a hole in each piece and then beating down the plain end so as to make a second head as a fastener. The process was used in jewellery instead of soldering, when it was not practicable to apply heat or when one part was to be left flexible for swivelling. The rivets are of the same metal as the piece.

Robe A whole set of clothes, usually composed of at least three parts: under-uppergarment and cloak. With the appearance of fourteenth-century dress variations, hoods, capes, etc. were added to it.

Sabia/Szablya(hung)/Säbel(germ) Sabre.

Sallerets/sabatons Defences for the foot, composed of laminations.

Sceptre (from Greek skeptron) - a part of royal insignia, developed from a simple staff. A symbol of spiritual and worldly power. In the Middle Ages two forms were distinguished: a long staff (baculum), otherwise called rod, and a short one (sceptrum), although their meaning was identical. The long staff, topped with a globe, is a typical attribute of God in Carolingian painting. The topping of a sceptre varied in different countries and in different periods: a sceptre could be crowned with three leaves or a lily, a globe, a bird, etc.

Short sword In the later Middle Ages, not like the Roman gladius, this term usually means a sword meant to be used in one hand only: the actual physical length could vary widely.

Soldering – the process of joining pieces of metal by the insertion of solder (molten metal) having a melting point lower than that of the metals to be joined. It is used in making and repairing jewellery.

Soled tights See chausses semellées.

sorquanie/suckeney (engl.) See surcot ouvert.

Sudlica/Sulica See Glaive.

Surcotte/surcoat In the thirteenth century the universal upper garment. In the fourteenth century, however, the term was used mainly in connection with female fashion.

Surcot ouvert Developed in the middle of the fourteenth century from the universal upper garment of the previous century, the surcotte, it became the part of highly born ladies' wardrobes. It was cut with deep décolletage and armholes, and a separately cut loose and long skirt was seamed into the bodice part, which was named plackard.

Target Round shield, often used by infantry.

Tasak(pol.)/Tesak(cz.)/Tisak(rus)/Dussack(germ) Similar to the Messer, a weapon that stood somewhere between a long knife (given the standards of the day) and a short sword, almost always single-edged and slightly curved.

Tiara is the papal crown, a costly covering for the head, ornamented with precious stones and pearls, which is shaped like a bee-hive, has a small cross at its highest point, and is also equipped with three royal diadems. On account of the three diadems it is sometimes called triregnum. The tiara is a non-liturgical ornament, which, therefore, is only worn for non-liturgical ceremonies, ceremonial procession to church and back, ceremonial papal processions, and at solemn acts of jurisdiction, as, for example, solemn dogmatic decisions. The pope, like the bishops, wears a mitre at pontifical liturgical functions. Various hypotheses, some very singular, have been proposed as to the origin of the papal head-covering. The earliest name of the papal cap, camelaucum, as well as the Donation of Constantine, clearly point to the Byzantine East; it is hardly to be doubted that the model from which the papal cap was taken is to be found in the camelaucum of the Byzantine court dress. The adoption by the popes of the camelaucum as an ornament for the head in the 7th or at the latest in the 8th century is sufficiently explained by the important position which they had attained just at this period in Italy and chiefly at Rome. Though they could not assume a crown, as they were not sovereign, they could wear a camelaucum, which was worn by the dignitaries of the Byzantine Empire.

Tights See chausses.

Touaille/ wimple(engl.)/gimpel(germ.)/guimple(of) Fine linen or wool veil, originated in Anglo-Saxon territories. It was worn around the neck, fastened with pins at the back of neck. This fastening then was hidden under the veil worn over it. It survived in the habits of certain female monastic orders.

Vambraces Plate defences for the lower arm.

Ventail See Aventail

Viretoni Large crossbow bolt. Dalmatia, 14th century.

Vouge, Voulge See Glaive.

weapon belt Worn on the hips, this heavy, often mounted belt composed the part of knightly fashion, even when worn with civilian garments.

Wheel brooch A type of brooch in the form of a circle with ribs crossing the central space as spokes in a wheel, sometimes having the ribs decorated with gemstones. Such brooches followed the ring brooch when it was no longer necessary to keep the open space in the centre for fastening by means of pulling up the fabric to be pierced by the pin; such brooches were fastened by the pin and a catch-plate.



Braun, Joseph. “Mitre.” Transcribed by W. S. French, Jr. In The Catholic Encyclopedia on-line,

________. “ Tiara.” Transcribed by T. Drake. In The Catholic Encyclopedia on-line,

Frère, Jean-Claude. De Vlaamse Primitieven. Paris: Atrium/ Terrail, 1996.

Lexikon des Mittelalters. Eds. R. Auty et al. Munich - Zurich: Artemis-Verlag, [1977]-1998.

Lightbown, Ronald W. Medieval European Jewellery, With a catalogue of the Collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum, Published by the Victoria &Albert Museum with the Assistance of the Ghetty Grant Program. [London]:Victoria & Albert Museum, 1992.

Newman, Harold. An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry. London: Thames and Hudson, 1999.

Scarisbrick, Diana. Les Bagues: Symboles de Richesse, de Pouvoir et d'Amour. London: Thames and Hudson, 1993.

Glossary of Heraldic Terms in General Use

Achievement The proper name of coat of arms, composed of the shield, helm, crest, supporters, etc.

Addorsed Back to back.
Affronty Facing the spectator.
Ancient The arms formerly borne (in fact or legend) by a country or family, now out of date or obsolete; as opposed to modern.
Annulet A ring.
Antelope, Heraldic A monster with the body of an antelope, two horns, a mane, and long tail.
Appaumé or Appaumy With the palm of the hand facing the spectator.
Arched Used of an Ordinary that is bowed in the form of an arch.
Argent Heraldic term for silver or white.
Armed As a term of blazon refers to a creature's offensive and defensive weapons; in the case of birds, beaks and talons, but not legs, although as a term of falconry it includes the scaly part of legs.
Attired With antlers.
Augmentation An additional charge to arms, crest, badge, or supporters, usually as a mark of honour.
Azure Heraldic term for blue.
Badge A free-standing heraldic device. In the fifteenth century a distinction can be made between personal badges, which were often beasts and survived in the Royal Beasts, and retainers' badges, which were simple, often inanimate charges.
Bar A horizontal stripe on the shield; a diminutive of the fess.
Bar gemel Two thin bars borne together; visually identical to a voided bar.
Barbed With roses this refers to the leaves enclosing the bud which appear between the petals of an open rose, and if blazoned proper Vert is shown. Alternatively, the point of a sharp weapon.
Barry Said of a field or charge divided horizontally into an even number of stripes.
Base The lower portion of the shield.
Bearing Originally synonymous with a charge borne on a shield, it now occurs most frequently in `armorial bearings', which is used generally to mean as much of a full achievement as is depicted-although 'armorial ensigns' might be more appropriate, ensigns (insignia) being a more suitable word if a crest, supporters, or badge are included.
Bend The fourth Honourable Ordinary; a diagonal stripe drawn across the shield from the dexter chief to the sinister base.
Bendwise Said of charges when shown at the same angle as a bend. This is to be contrasted with 'in bend', where charges are arranged across the shield diagonally but the angle at which they stand is not specified.
Bezant A gold roundel.
Bezanty Field or charge powdered with bezants.
Billet An oblong
Billety Scattered with Billets
Blazon The written description of armorial bearings.
Bordure A border round the edge of the shield.
Caboshed Animal's head, often stag's affronty, without a neck.
Cadency mark Device to distinguish the arms of junior members of a family.
Canting arms Arms containing charges which allude punningly to the name of the bearer.
Canton A square division, the same depth as a chief, in one of the upper corners of the shield, usually in dexter chief and often charged and used as an augmentation.
Chaplet Synonymous with floral wreath, e. g. chaplet of roses. See in jewelry
Charge A bearing or figure represented on the shield.
Chequy, Checquy, or Checky A term applied to a field or charge divided into three or more rows of small squares of alternate tinctures like a chess board (see gobony).
Chevron The Ordinary, representing two rafters of a house meeting at the top like an upturned V.
Chevronel A chevron of half the usual width.
Chevronny The field divided into an equal number of chevron-shaped areas.
Chief The Ordinary, created by drawing a horizontal line across the shield, and occupying at most the upper third of the shield.
Cinquefoil Charge similar to five-leaved clover.
Cockatrice A two-legged dragon or wyvern, with a cock's head.
Colours The principle colours are blue (Azure), red (Gules), black (Sable), green (Vert), and purple (Purpure). See also tinctures.
Combatant Two rampant beasts facing one another with raised paws, as if in a pugilistic attitude.
Compartment An optional addition, being the area beneath an English peer's arms, usually depicting a piece of solid land on which the shield rests and supporters stand.
Coronet There are five different coronets of rank which may surmount the arms of British peers. The so-called ducal coronet, used either with or instead of a crest wreath, implies no rank, and the term crest coronet is preferred today.
Cotise A diminutive of the bend, one quarter its width, and only borne in pairs on either side of the bend.
Couchant A beast lying on all fours with its head erect like the sphinx.
Couché Of a shield, means it is shown at an angle.
Counterchanged When the field is divided between a metal and a colour, and those charges or parts of charges which fall upon the metal are of the colour and vice versa, the charges are said to be counterchanged.
Courant or Current Running.
Coward Used of a beast or monster with its tail between its legs.
Crancelin A crown in the form of an ornamental arched bend, said to be derived from a chaplet of rue, and found in the arms of Saxony.
Crest A device mounted on the helmet in the days of chivalry, and still so displayed in modern heraldry.
Cross The Ordinary. Many variations exist.
Crusily Field or charge powdered with cross crosslets.
Cubit Arm cut off below the elbow, usually shown palewise.
Demy The upper half of a beast, bird, etc.
Dentilly A line of partition which is indented bendwise like the teeth of a ratchet wheel, derived from Guernsey French 'dentelé', meaning jagged.
Dexter Right as opposed to left (sinister) when describing charges on the shield. All blazon assumes one is standing behind the shield. The dexter half of the shield consequently is the left-hand side to the spectator.
Diapering An optional patterning with scrollwork or flourishes on uncharged parts of a shield executed in the same tincture to relieve the surface.
Difference To make an addition or alteration to arms and crest, usually to mark a distinction between the coats of arms of closely related persons whose shields would otherwise be the same.
Dimidiation Cutting two coats of arms in half by a vertical line, and uniting the dexter half of one with the sinister half of the other. Precursor of impalement.
Displayed Used of birds with outstretched wings, like imperial eagles.
Dormant A beast in a sleeping position.
Dragon The four-legged monster of mythology.
Eagle The bird which occurs with greatest frequency in early heraldry, usually shown displayed.
Embowed Bent at the elbow.
Embrued With blood on its point.
Erased Cut off with a jagged base line, as compared to couped which is a straight cut.
Ermine One of the furs, black tails on white; variants: Ermines, Erminois, and Pean.
Escallop A shell and pilgrim's badge.
Escarbuncle Central boss with radiating decorated spokes, often terminating in fleurs-de-lis.
Escutcheon Shield. When used as a charge, synonymous with inescutcheon.
Escutcheon of Pretence The small shield of an heraldic heiress placed in the centre of her husband's shield, instead of being impaled with his arms. The same device may be used by a Sovereign or Prince to denote one of his dominions.
Estoile A star with wavy limbs.
Fess The Ordinary is a band taking up the centre third of the escutcheon, and formed by two horizontal lines drawn across the shield.
Field The background colour, fur, or metal of the shield, always mentioned first in a blazon. It can be of more than one tincture if patterned.
Fitchy Pointed, terminating in a point. Usually used with forms of cross.
Flasque A narrow flaunch.
Flaunch A convex segmental Ordinary on either side of the shield.
Fleur-de-lis Stylised flower based on lily or iris, seen in the French Royal Arms, and borne in those of England till 1801.
Flory counterflory Denoting that the flowers with which an Ordinary (usually a tressure) is adorned have their heads placed inward and outward alternately, as in the Scottish Royal Arms.
Foil Generic term for group of flower-like charges, including trefoil, quatrefoil, cinquefoil.
Forcene Salient when used of horses.
Forchee or Forchy Forked; normally occurs as queue forchee, a forked tail.
Fountain A roundel barry wavy Argent and Azure.
Fret Mascle interlaced by a saltire.
Fretty A pattern of frets.
Fur The principal furs are Ermine (black tails on white) and Vair (a pattern of blue and white). See also tincture.
Fusil An elongated lozenge.
Gamb A paw, usually a Lion's or bear's.
Garb A sheaf, often of wheat.
Goutte A drop, for instance of water (d'eau) or blood (de sang); different terms are used depending on the tincture.
Griffin Winged monster with foreparts of an eagle and hindparts of a lion with a beard and ears. A male griffin has no wings, and spikes emerge from the body.
Guardant Used of a beast looking out at the spectator rather than seen in profile.
Gules Heraldic term for red.
Gutty Powdered with or semy of gouttes.
Gyronny Said of a field that is divided into triangular parts or gyrons, created by halving quarters diagonally.
Hatching A system for identifying tincture in monochrome by lines and dots.
Haurient A fish shown vertically.
Helmet The helmet bears the <crest and differs according to rank. It can also be used as a charge.
Hurt An azure roundel.
Impale To arrange two coats of arms side by side in one shield divided (or parted) per pale, normally to display arms of a husband (to the dexter) and his wife (to the sinister), or of Office (dexter) and the Office-holder (sinister).
Indented A line of partition resembling the blade of a saw.
Inescutcheon A shield when borne as a charge on another shield.
Invected The reverse of engrailed, indented with a series of curves pointing inward.
Issuant Used of beasts or monsters, unless they are winged, when rising (see also rising).
Jessant de lis With fleurs-de-lis issuing from the mouth and head.
Label A horizontal bar, usually couped, and normally with three or five dependent points. A label of three points now normally denotes an eldest son in the lifetime of his father.
Langued Tongued.
Leopard Term used in medieval heraldry for lion passant guardant. Now used for the natural beast.
Lined With a line similar to a leash, usually attached to a collar.
Lion Most frequently found beast in heraldry; occurs in many positions, of which the most usual are rampant and passant.
Lioncel Diminutive of lion, occasionally used if several on shield.
Lodged Deer are lodged when couchant.
Lozenge A diamond shape used both as a charge and instead of a shield to display the arms of single women and peeresses in their own right.
Lucy A pike (fish).
Lymphad A type of ship.
Mantled Refers to the outside rather than the lining (doubled) of mantling.
Mantling Represents slashed cloth worn over head and shoulders, often stylised as acanthus leaves.
Marshal To combine coats of arms on a single shield by quartering or other means.
Martlet A legless bird, sometimes said to represent the swift or swallow.
Mascle A hollow diamond-shaped device or voided lozenge.
Masoned Used when lines of pointing are of a different tincture from the building on which they appear.
Maunch A device representing a medieval sleeve.
Metal Two metals are used, gold (Or) or yellow colour, and silver (Argent) or white colour.
Millrind The iron retaining piece fixed at the centre of a millstone.
Modern The arms borne by a country or family in present and recent times; opposite to ancient.
Mullet A figure resembling a star with straight limbs, usually of five points in England.
Naiant Swimming, usually for fish which are fess-wise.
Nebuly A form of wavy now like a row of jigsaw tongues. No distinction was made between this and wavy in medieval heraldry. See also as a headdress
Or Heraldic term for gold or yellow.
Ordinary Any one of the major armorial geometrical charges, also known as Honourable Ordinaries. Heralds differ as to the number but nine are usually given, namely cross, chief, pale, bend, fess, inescutcheon, chevron, saltire, bar. Sub-Ordinaries or plain Ordinaries without the prefix Honourable are gyron, orle, pile, quarter, quarter sinister, canton, canton sinister, flasque, flaunch. Some writers add fret, lozenge, fusil, and mascle.
Orle A voided escutcheon a bordure's width from the edge of the shield. Charges placed in orle follow the line of the orle.
Pale The Ordinary. A vertical stripe in the middle of the shield occupying at most one third of the shield.
Palewise Said of charges when vertical. It does not relate to the relationship between charges which might be 'palewise in bend' if arranged diagonally across the shield, although pointing upwards. When charges are above one another the term `in pale' is used.
Pall A Y-shaped charge.
Pallet A narrow vertical stripe on the shield, half the width of a pale.
Paly Divided into an even number of vertical stripes of equal width, in alternating tinctures.
Panache An arrangement of feathers on the helmet, one of the precursors of the crest.
Pantheon Monster resembling a hind powdered with estoiles or mullets, usually with a bushy tail.
Panther The beast is depicted heraldically with flames issuing from ears and mouth and with body powdered with multicoloured spots.
Passant Four-legged beast or monster depicted with the dexter foreleg raised as if walking.
Pegasus Term often used for the winged horse.
Pelican Usually shown 'in her piety' pecking her breast to feed her young with her blood.
Pellety Field or charge powdered with pellets.
Pheon An arrowhead.
Phoenix Usually shown as a demi-eagle emerging from flames.
Pierced Refers to a circular hole in a charge through which the field shows unless another tincture is specified, cf. voided.
Pile A triangular Ordinary.
Pineapple The pine-cone rather than the fruit.
Pommel The spherical end of a sword.
Proper Depicted in natural colours.
Purpure Heraldic term for purple.
Quarter To divide the shield into four or more compartments of equal sizes.
Quatrefoil Charge similar to four-leafed clover
Queue Tail of a beast.
Raguly Designating a charge or Ordinary jagged or notched like the trunk or limbs of a tree lopped of its branches. Also a line of partition.
Rampant Beast or monster standing on one hind leg.
Regardant Applied to any beast, bird, or monster looking back over its shoulder.
Rising Used of birds when rising, but not for beasts or monsters (see issuant).
Roundel A circle. Can be called a bezant when Or, plate when Argent, hurt when Azure, torteau when Gules, pellet when Sable, and pomme when Vert.
Sable Heraldic term for black.
Salamander Shown as a reptile in flames. Salient A beast jumping, leaping, or rearing.
Saltire The Ordinary, depicted in the form of a St Andrew's Cross.
Sejant Beasts and monsters seated erect.
Semy or semée Scattered or powdered as in semy de lis (strewn with fleurs-de-lis) .
Sinister Left as opposed to right (dexter) when describing charges on the shield. All blazon assumes one is standing behind the shield. The sinister half of the shield is consequently the right-hand side to the spectator.
Slipped With a stalk; term is used with flowers and foils.
Statant Beasts and monsters standing with all feet on the ground.
Supporter Either of a pair of figures standing one on each side of and supporting the shield.
Talbot Medieval hunting dog.
Tenné Heraldic term for orange.
Theow A monster resembling a wolf with cloven hooves.
Thunderbolt A winged column with flames at either end and stylised lightning crossing behind the centre of the column in saltire.
Tincture The general designation for colours, metals, and furs.
Torse Synonymous with the crest wreath, and normally of six visible twists of cloth wound round the helmet. Often shown under the crest without a helmet.
Torteau A roundel Gules.
Trefoil A stylised leaf resembling a three-leaved clover. It is termed a trefoil slipped if it has a stalk.
Tressure A diminutive of the orle appearing as a narrow band near the edge of a coat of arms, often ornamented with fleurs-de-lis, as in the Scottish Royal Arms.
Tricking System of indicating tincture in uncoloured records by abbreviation.
Unguled Hooved, of beasts or monsters.
Unicorn Monster shown as a horse with a twisted horn, lion's tail, and hooves.
Urchin Heraldic term for a hedgehog.
Vair A fur depicted in various stylised patterns of blue and white.
Vairy Used for Vair in tinctures other than blue and white.
Vert Heraldic term for green.
Voided With a hole in the centre of the same shape as the charge (see also pierced).
Volant Heraldic term for flying.
Wavy or undy Applied to Ordinaries or division lines which curve and recurve like waves.
Wyvern A two-legged dragon.
Yale A tusked monster with cloven hooves, pointed ears, usually curved horns, and a short lion's tail.

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