Glossary of Heraldic Terms

  • Affronté: Of an animal, facing the viewer.
  • Alberia: A field argent without a device.
  • Argent: White or silver.
  • Armed: With natural weapons (claws, teeth, beak etc) rendered in the specified colour.
  • Attitude: The posture of an animal depicted in a device.
  • Azure: Blue.
  • Barry: Of a field, horizontally striped.
  • Bend: A diagonal bar, normally running from upper dexter to lower sinister.
  • Bend sinister: A diagonal bar running from lower dexter to upper sinister, generally used to denote illegitimacy.
  • Blazon: The formal description of a coat of arms.
  • Chequy: Of a field, varied with orthogonal checks.
  • Crosslet: A small cross.
  • Device: An image placed upon a field.
  • Dexter: The right of a shield from the viewpoint of the bearer (thus left for the viewer).
  • Displayed: Of a bird, with wings spread and head turned to dexter (or both ways in the case of double-headed eagles).
  • Ermine: A regular pattern of black stylised stoats’ tails on a white background.
  • Escutcheon: Shield containing arms.
  • Estoile: Five-pointed star.
  • Field: Background.
  • Guardant: of an animal, with head looking towards the viewer.
  • Gules: Red.
  • Langued: With a tongue rendered in the specified colour.
  • Or: Yellow or gold.
  • Palewise: Vertical.
  • Passant: Of an animal, shown walking.
  • Purpure: Purple.
  • Rampant:  Of an animal, shown in profile, rearing.
  • Roundel: Circle.
  • Sable: Black.
  • Semy: Of a field, varied with a repeating pattern.
  • Sinister: The left of a shield from the viewpoint of the bearer (thus right for the viewer). See also Bend sinister.
  • Tincture: In general terms a colour, though it can refer to a pattern (for instance Ermine is considered a tincture).
  • Vert: Green.
  • Wavy: Undulating.

A standard heraldic blazon allows for a design to be reconstructed, at least in general outline. It describes the field first, followed by the device, if any, placed upon that field (though halving and quartering can complicate this). Adjectives, such as tinctures and attitudes, follow the noun. Thus, the rather fiddly arms of Sir Aglavale (‘Purpure a semy of crosslets or a lion passant guardant argent armed and langued gules‘)  break down as follows.

Field
Purpure = A purple background…
a semy =  …with a repeating pattern…
of crosslets or =  …of small gold crosses.

Device
a lion passant =  A walking lion…
guardant = …looking at the viewer…
argent = …in white or silver…
armed and langued gules = …with claws, teeth and tongue in red.

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