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Glossary of flag terms

Breaking

A flag is said to be broken when it is allowed to break free at the top of a flagpole after having been furled and hoisted to the top of the pole.

Bunting

A loosely woven coloured fabric, traditionally wool but nowadays often polyester, used for flags and festive decorations.

Colours (maritime)

The flags of a ship.

Ensign

A term that denotes distinctive flags authorised for use by the Navy, the Air Force, merchant ships and pleasure craft. Also the term used for a flag with the Union Flag in the first quarter. Visit Wikipedia for further details about ensigns.

First Quarter

The upper half of the hoist and the place of honour in a flag; also called the canton and sometimes the upper hoist. The three other quarters are the second quarter - the upper half of the fly; third quarter - the lower half of the hoist (also called the lower hoist); and the fourth quarter - the lower half of the fly.

Flagpole

The pole on which a flag is hoisted; sometimes referred to as mast or flagstaff. 

Fly

The half of a flag farthest from the halyard.

Gaff

A spar extending out from a flagpole. A spar is a stout rounded usually wood or metal piece (as a mast, boom, gaff, or yard) used to support rigging.

Halyard

The rope by which a flag is raised and lowered.

Hoist

The half of the flag nearest to the halyard.

House flag

Originally a flag flown from a firm's ship, but now used to describe flags of companies, clubs, and other organisations.

Mast head

The top of the mast or flagpole; also called the peak.

Pike-staff

A pole with a decorative head to which a ceremonial flag is attached for carrying.

Position of honour

The place given to the highest ranking flag especially when carried.

Spar

A spar is a stout rounded usually wood or metal piece (as a mast, boom, gaff, or yard) used to support rigging.

Staff

The pole used to support a flag especially when carried.

Union Jack

The common name given to the British flag.

Yardarm

A spar slung horizontally across a flagpole. A spar is a stout rounded usually wood or metal piece (as a mast, boom, gaff, or yard) used to support rigging.


Updated on 19th July 2017