Glossary of Heraldic Terms

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Compiled by Madeline Bourque Kearin
July 2011
© 2011 The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society
All rights reserved.

Achievement: A fully marshaled coat of arms

Argent: Silver; in color, white

Armiger: One entitled to bear heraldic arms

Azure: Blue

Bend: A figure formed by two parallel lines, drawn from the dexter chief to the sinister base; it is one third of the field in width.

Bezants: Gold roundles

Bezantée: Strewed with bezants

Billets: Figures of an oblong square form

Bordure: A uniform edge to a shield, occupying one fifth of the field

Charged: A figure bearing any device upon it is said to be charged therewith.

Chevron: A division of a shield shaped like the lower half of a saltire and occupying one third of one fifth of the area, according to whether it is charged or not

Chief: The upper portion of the shield, one-third of the latter in width, separated from the field by a horizontal line

Cinquefoil: The five-leaved grass

Chequy: Used of a field covered with small squares of alternate tincture

Coronet: Crown

Counterflory: A tressure fiory in which the alternate fleurs-de-lys are reversed

Couped: Term used when the head or limb of an animal or any other charge is cut off by an even line

Crined: Used to describe the beard of hair when different in color from the body

Cross-crosslet: A cross having its arms crossed by a short bar at a little distance from their extremities

Dancettée: Applied to lines whose teeth or indents are larger and wider than those of a line indented

Demi: Half, the top half being understood when no other is mentioned

Dexter: Right; the right-hand side of the escutcheon, but the left to the spectator

Ducal coronet: A coronet composed of four leaves of equal height above the rim

Embowed: Bent or bowed

Engrailed: Indented in curved lines

Escallop: The shell of the scallop, or escallop-fish

Escutcheon of pretence: The shield on which a man bears his wife’s arms if she is an heiress. It is borne in the center of his own shield and is usually of the same shape.

Feathered: Used of arrows whose flights are a different color from the shafts

Fess: A figure formed by two horizontal lines drawn across the shield; it is one-third of the field in width and is always placed in the center.

Fesswise: Placed like a fess

Field: The surface of the escutcheon, or shield

Finned: Having fins

Fitcheé: Pointed; sharpened to a point

Flory, fleury, flurty or floretty: Flowered with fleurs-de-lys

Gambs: The leg of an animal from the knee joint

Garbs: A sheaf or any kind of grain; when other than wheat the kind must be stated

Gules: Red

Guttée: Sprinkled with drops

Habited: Clothed

Heads: Usually have their posture stated; affronté when in profile, guardant when full-faced and regardant when looking backwards; head on its own implies in profile.

Helm: A helmet

Mantle: The cloak on which achievements are painted

Mascle: A hollowed-out lozenge

Mantlings: Ornamented foliage-work for adorning helmets in painting armorial bearings

Mural crown or coronet: A circle of gold, crenellated like a battlement

Per: Used to show how a shield, ordinary, or charge is divided by any of the partition lines, as per bend, per pale, etc.

Proper: Used of objects when shown in their natural colors

Or: Gold

Quartered: A shield, charge, or crest, divided into four equal parts by two lines crossing each other at right angles, is termed quartered; each of these parts is a quarter. However, a shield so designated must contain but two coats of arms, the first and fourth quarters being the same, and the second and third quarters being alike. If this is not the case, the shield is said to be quarterly, even though it has but four divisions.

Rampant: Denoting an animal when represented as standing erect on its hind legs

Sable: Black

Saltire: An X-shaped cross

Seax: A scimitar with a semi-circular notch on the back of the blade

Sejant: Sitting

Sinister: Left; the left-hand side of the escutcheon, but the right to the spectator

Supporters: Figures placed on either side of a shield

Torse: The wreath on which the crest is placed

Volant: Flying

Vulning: Wounded so that blood appears

Wavy: A line of partition formed like waves



Vermont, E. De V., illustrated by Henry Rykers. America Heraldica: A Compilation of Coats of Arms, Crests and Mottoes of Prominent American Families Settled in This County Before 1800. New York: Brentano Brothers, 1887.

Burke’s Peerage and Gentry Online: A-Z Guide to Heraldic Terms.


© 2011 The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. All rights reserved.