- An emblem or design representing a government, a branch within that government or a person that, when embossed
upon or affixed to a document, proves its authenticity or which validates a legal
instrument. The reproduction of an official seal often appears on US sub-national
flags – see ‘seal of the state of’ (also
‘seal on a bedsheet’,
‘sub-national flag’ and
‘state flag 2)’).
State Seal of Georgia and Minnesota, and the municipal seal of Bakersfield, US (fotw, official and
Wikipedia); Seal of
Subotica, Serbia (fotw)
Please note, that whilst a seal originally showed
the user’s badge or parts of their armorial bearings (and was used to create an
impression on wax or lead), when seen on flags today it is generally not (particularly in US usage) a coat
of arms as defined herein (see also ‘anti-heraldry’).
- SEAL FLAG
- A term for the flag whose main charge consists of a seal as defined herein, set largely (but not
exclusively) on a plain field and most often seen in the flags of US states and government agencies (see also
‘plain 2)’, ‘seal’
and ‘seal on a bedsheet’).
From left: Flag of Utah, US (fotw); Flag of
Missouri, US (fotw); Flag of Kentucky, US (fotw);
Flag of the Dept of Energy, US (fotw); Flag of Subotica, Serbia (fotw)
a) This term has been introduced by the Editors since
no established alternative could be found.
b) In US usage flags of his type are often derived from
previously established military colours.
- SEAL OF THE STATE OF
- In US usage, the seal relating to a specific state of the union – see ‘seal’ (also
Seals of the States of Florida, Utah and Minnesota, US (FOTW and Wikipedia)
- SEAL OF SOLOMON
- See ‘magen david’ and its following note
National flag and Emblem of Morocco (fotw)
- SEAL ON A BEDSHEET
- 1) A term that is intended to be derogatory, to apply particularly to sub-national
flags in the US and to describe any such flag that bears a seal (as opposed to another
form of charge) upon a plain field – but see ‘seal flag’ and 2) below (also
‘logo on a bedsheet’ plus its following note
2) As above, but the term may include flags bearing a coat of arms rather than a
seal – see ‘armorial flag’.
New Hampshire, US (fotw); Flag of
Idaho, US (fotw); Flag of
New York, US (fotw)
- SECOND CANTON (or QUARTER)
- A term for that quarter of a flag which occupies the upper fly - the second quarter,
upper fly or upper fly canton – see ‘canton 3)’
(also ‘hoist 1)’).
- SECOND COLOUR (or COLOR)
- An old term, now rarely used outside the British and Canadian foot guards,
for the regimental colour (see also
‘colour 2’ and
Second/Regimental Colour of the Governor General’s Foot Guards, Canada (Official Website)
- 1) In vexillology a term that is used to describe the section (or sections) of a
charge or field which meet at, or emanate from, a central point.
2) See ‘gyronny’.
Roundels of The Czech Republic and
- SECTOR FLAGS/PENNANTS
- See ‘registration flags’.
Sector/Registration flag, One Department of Rochefort, France (fotw)
- 1) See ‘faceted’.
2) In vexillology a term that may be used in place of the heraldic “gyronny”
when a charge or field is divided into sections in (usually) alternating or different
shades/colours meeting at a central point – but see ‘gyronny’.
From left: Flag of
Gornji Grad, Slovenia (fotw); Symbol of the
Ratana faith, New Zealand (fotw)
- The heraldic term used when describing the centre of a rose, other flower
or flower-like charge, particularly when this is of a different tincture - but
see ‘barbed’ (also ‘tincture’).
Flag of Haguenau, France (fotw); Flag of
Lochristi, Belgium (fotw); Flag of
Broye, Switzerland (fotw); Flag of
Les Ecasseys, Switzerland (fotw)
Please note that botany draws a distinction between the stamen and seedpods of a rose or other flower, whereas English heraldry does not.
- SEGMENTED (or SEGMENTAL)
- See ‘faceted’ and
(also ‘sector(s) 1)’).
Flag of Mollis, Switzerland (fotw)
- See ‘Appendix V:’.
Military Crest of Michigan, US (fotw)
- SELVEDGE (or SELVAGE)
- The outer edges of a length of cloth so woven that the threads do not unravel,
and used to minimize the area of a flag which might otherwise be lost through hemming
– most particularly in those flags formerly made from breadths of fabric (see also
- 1) A system of signalling by means of two flags hand-held in various positions
according to a recognized code (see also
‘Morse code signalling with flags’ and
- 2) A system of signalling by means of movable mechanical arms, now obsolete but
widely used prior to invention of the electric telegraph and at sea sometimes fitted
aboard warships - telegraphing.
- 3) A system of flags, pennants and black shapes hoisted in various positions to
indicate the state and height of the tide in some French ports.
Positions in Semaphore (Jim Croft)
Please note with regard to 2), in British RN usage
ships hoisted a designated semaphore flag to indicate that they were about to make
a signal by means of the mechanical semaphore system.
- SEMAPHORE FLAG
- See 'semaphore 2)', and note.
Semaphore Flags (Sea Flags)
- SEMÉ (or SEMY)
- An originally heraldic term used when the field of a flag or shield is
sown or strewn over with an indeterminate number of charges such as
fleur-de-lis or stars – powdered – but see note below (also ‘billetty’
Banner of France c1200 – c1350 (fotw); National Flag of France 1814 – 1830 (fotw); Arms and Flag of
Zumberak, Croatia (fotw)
Please note that in vexillology the term may be used even if the number and disposition of the charges are strictly determined as in, for example, the US national jack.
Traditional Jack, US (fotw)
- SEMÉ (or SEMY) OF BILLETS
- See ‘billetty’.
Flag of Dully, Switzerland (fotw)
- SEMEION (or SEMEIA)
- A cruciform vexilloid of classical Greece used aboard ship (to indicate command, for
signalling and for identification) and sometimes draped with a phoinikis or purple
cloak/length of cloth (see also ‘standard 5)’ and
a) The word semeion had a broad range of meanings in classical
Greek all roughly corresponding to “sign” (see also ‘signum’) and it is accordingly
suggested that the definition given above (whilst based on written sources) must be considered to some
b) Semeia is the plural form of
semeion, and that classical
Greek writers also refer to “barbarian semeia” with those of the Phoenicians recorded as having been a globe and
- See ‘demi’.
Flag of Wildberg, Switzerland (fotw)
- SEMI-CIRCULAR (or SEMICIRCULAR) SHIELD
- The term used in some European heraldic systems (albeit inaccurately) to
describe a round-bottomed or Spanish-style shield – see ‘Spanish-style shield’
(also ‘French shield’, ‘Gothic shield’,
‘Italian shield’, ‘rectangular shield’,
‘shield 2)’ and ‘triarched triangular shield’).
- A fine silk fabric originally used as a field for the finest quality of various
- SENIOR OFFICER AFLOAT PENNANT
- A pennant hoisted to indicate the senior officer's ship when several warships
of the same navy are alongside or at anchor in a port – a senior officer present
afloat pennant (see also 'broad pennant',
'command pennant' and
'flag of command').
It should be noted however, that many different designs are in use by different
navies, and that these might also have differing or additional meanings.
From left: Argentina (CS); Estonia (CS); France, French Forces
Please note that a green, white and green square-ended
pennant – the starboard pennant in the NATO signal code - is used for this purpose
(at the starboard yardarm) by all warships of the Alliance, but usually only when
there is no flag officer present who is flying his flag afloat. It is, however,
also employed to indicate the senior officer when ships of more than one NATO
navy are present in a port, irrespective of whether any flags of command or broad
pennants are flying.
The NATO Starboard Pennant (CS)
- SERAPIS FLAG
- See ‘Franklin flag’
The Serapis/Franklin Pattern of Stars and Stripes, 1778 (fotw)
- SERGEANT MAJOR'S COLOUR (or COLOR)
- See ‘stand of colours 1)’ and ‘venn’.
Examples of Sergeant Major’s Colours in Venn A and Venn B, English c1641 (fotw)
Please note that these flags relate to the field officer whose rank was immediately below that of Lt Colonel, and
not to a regiment’s senior non-commissioned officer as is modern usage.
- 1) The vexillological term for a saw-toothed line on a shield, banner of arms or a flag –
but see note b) below (also
- 2) A term that may be used for a saw-toothed stripe – a zigzag (see also ‘wavy’).
National Flag of Bahrain (fotw); Flag and Arms of
Milíkov, Czech Republic (fotw); Civil Ensign of Taiwan (fotw)
a) With regard to 1), the five white points on the flag
of Bahrain (illustrated above) refer to the five pillars of Islam.
b) The heraldic terms to describe this type of division are ‘indented’ or
- SERVICE ENSIGN
- 1) See under ‘ensign’.
Former Postal Ensign/Flag of Norway (fotw)
- SERVICE FLAG (or BANNER)
- 1) See ‘state flag 1)’ (also
‘state service flag’).
- 2) See ‘ensign 2)’ plus ‘government ensign’
and ‘service ensign’ under ‘ensign’.
- 3) In US usage, a flag (instituted in 1926) flown annually at the Capitol, Washington on Armistice Day
(11 November) to commemorate those who served or are serving in the armed services of that country – an
American war mothers or armistice day flag.
- 4) In largely North American usage, a flag/banner (originally introduced
in 1917) for display by families, employers,
or other organizations to signify that one or more members is/are serving in the armed
forces – a sons in service flag or national service flag/banner.
From left: Armistice Day Flag, US (Dave Martucci); Service Flags US (fotw); Canada (CS)
Please note with regard to 4) that a gold star (as illustrated above) or emblem indicates that the person being represented
has died in service.
- SERVICE OF CONSECRATION
- See ‘consecration’.
- SERVICE PENNANT
- The generic term – and a direct translation of the German dienstwimpel – for an
increasingly obsolete type of pennant that is sometimes flown (in varying forms) together with the government ensign or
from the mainmast of vessels in government employ to indicate the function or service
involved, or occasionally from an appropriate shore based establishments – a departmental pennant (see also ‘government
ensign’ under ‘ensign’ and
The DDR Shipping Inspectorate, 1955-90 (fotw); Lifesaving Service, US (fotw); Icebreaking Service, Denmark (fotw)