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List of heraldic charges

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is a list of heraldic charges. It does not cover those charges which are geometrical patterns and resemble partitions of the field; for these, see Ordinary (heraldry).

Fox-Davies (1909) in his presentation of common heraldic charges divides them into the following categories (not including ordinaries and subordinaries): the human figure, the heraldic lion, beasts (mammals), monsters, birds, fish, reptiles, insects, plants (trees, leaves, fruits and flowers), and "inanimate objects".

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Intro to Heraldry: Part II - Tinctures, charges, and the blazon
  • The Meaning of Symbols in Coats of Arms
  • Introduction to Heraldry in America
  • How To Find The Correct Coat of Arms For Your Family
  • KWHSS 2015 - Documenting Charges from Period Sources - Bruce Draconarius of Mistholme



a shield with three lozenges.
a shield with three lozenges.

A number of simple geometric shapes have traditionally, and somewhat arbitrarily, been classified among the so-called subordinaries. (All other mobile charges are called common charges.)

  • lozenge
    • fusil (a narrow lozenge; the term originally referred to a cone-shaped pulley, from Latin fūsus, "spindle")
    • mascle (lozenge voided; related to "mesh")
    • rustre (lozenge pierced; from German Raute, "rhombus")[1]
  • billet[1][2] (a rectangle)
  • annulet (a ring)
  • roundel, but different tinctures have different names: for example roundels argent are called plates. A roundel barry wavy azure and argent is called a fountain.
  • label: commonly a mark of difference, but also appears as an independent charge.
  • fret: originally woven from three bendlets (dexter) and three bendlets sinister, now usually a single bendlet each way interwoven with a mascle.[1]

Human figures

Coat of arms for Manesse (Zürich armorial, c. 1340)
Coat of arms for Manesse (Zürich armorial, c. 1340)

Parts of human bodies

Coat of arms of the Hungarian town Komádi.
Coat of arms of the Hungarian town Komádi.
  • The head
  • The hand, or hand and arm, is the most common part of the human body to be a charge.[1]
  • Eye
  • The ear[4]
  • Feet[5]
    • Example of a foot (sole) being used as a heraldic charge in the coat of arms of the Voet family (16th century)
      Example of a foot (sole) being used as a heraldic charge in the coat of arms of the Voet family (16th century)
      (human) foot sole[6]
  • Teeth
  • Tongue[7]
  • The heart, even when blazoned "a human heart", always appears like the heart in a deck of cards rather than a natural human heart.
  • A "dug" or woman's breast "distilling drops of milk" famously appears in the arms of the Dodge family, and appeared for a time on the badge of cars made by the Dodge Automotive company.[8]
  • Beards[9]
  • Testicles: the Neapolitan family of Coglione bore per fess argent and gules, three pairs of testicles counterchanged.[10] The similar coat of the Counts Colleoni of Milan is sometimes blazoned Per pale argent and gules, three hearts reversed counterchanged.[11]


Any animal can be a heraldic charge, although more traditional ones vary in the exactitude with which they resemble the creature as found in nature. Animals depicted naturally are either described as natural or using the scientific nomenclature.

Predatory beasts

Lion as a primary charge in the coat of arms of Finland.
Lion as a primary charge in the coat of arms of Finland.


Other mammals

Reptiles and amphibians


Insects include:


A sea-lion, illustrated in A Complete Guide to Heraldry (1909).
A sea-lion, illustrated in A Complete Guide to Heraldry (1909).
  • Sphinx: depicted with the head and breasts of a woman.
  • Griffin, combining the head (but with ears), chest, wings and forelegs of the eagle with the hindquarters and legs of a lion (A sub-type of griffin, the Keythong lacks wings with the upper body having armor plate like feathers and its lower body is scattered with sharp spiny quills). See List of griffins as mascots and in heraldry.
  • Unicorn, having a horse's body, deer's legs, goat's beard, and often a lion's tail
  • The hippogriff is like the griffin except that the lion parts of the griffin are replaced by those of a horse.
  • Harpy
  • Theow is a wolf-like creature but with cloven hooves.
  • The "sea-horse" (hippocampus) is depicted as half horse and half fish
  • The sea-lion is a combination of a lion and a fish.[1]
  • Any combination of parts of other animals, e.g. winged reindeer, is possible.[1]


By far the most frequent heraldic bird is the eagle.[citation needed] A variant is the alerion, without beak or feet, seen in the arms of the duchy of Lorraine (of which it is not quite an anagram).

Also very frequent is the martlet, a conventional swallow depicted without feet or the French variant the merlette, which also omits the beak.

Fish and creatures of the sea

"Fish" are sometimes only described as "a fish", but the species is often named:

Parts of animals

Parts of creatures may also be used as charges.



Western arms of the Akihito as a Knight of the Garter, featuring a chrysanthemum
Western arms of the Akihito as a Knight of the Garter, featuring a chrysanthemum

Trees and their fruits

Trees appear as eradicated (showing the roots) or couped. Fruit can appear on a tree, or by itself. Also, leaves and branches appear.

Other flora

Alder in the coat of arms of Grossarl, Austria.
Alder in the coat of arms of Grossarl, Austria.

Trees are sometimes merely blazoned as "a tree" but specific trees are mentioned in blazon.

A small group of trees is blazoned as a hurst, grove, wood or thicket.[2]

Grain crops and vegetables

Barley (French orge) in the arms of Orges, Switzerland
Barley (French orge) in the arms of Orges, Switzerland
  • Wheat occurs in the form of "garbs" or sheaves and as ears, though sometimes garbs represent another crop
  • Ears of rye are depicted exactly as wheat, except the ears droop down.
  • "Ginny wheat" or "guinea wheat" (like wheat but with a fatter ear) also exists[27]
  • Cabbage[28]
  • Leek[29]

Inanimate charges

Regarding "inanimate objects", Fox-Davies (1909:281) comments:

"one can safely say that there is scarcely an object under the sun which has not at some time or other been introduced into a coat of arms or crest. One cannot usefully make a book on armory assume the character of a general encyclopedia on useful knowledge, and reference will only be made in this chapter to a limited number, including those which from frequent usage have obtained a recognised heraldic character."


Originally representing the Christian cross used as field sign and standard during the Crusades, heraldic crosses diversified into many variants in the late medieval to early modern period, the most common (besides the plain "Greek cross") being the cross potent, cross pattée, cross fleury, cross moline, cross crosslet (etc.).


Langenmantel vom RR family coat of arms as shown in Siebmachers Wappenbuch (1605).
Langenmantel vom RR family coat of arms as shown in Siebmachers Wappenbuch (1605).

Lettering in coats of arms are usually placed in the motto, not in the heraldic shield as a charge. However, a tradition of introducing individual letters as heraldic charges on the basis of acrophony originates in the 15th to 16th century, primarily in personal and municipal heraldry, and with some frequency in the modern period, appearing more often on the continent than in British heraldry where letters as charges have traditionally been discouraged. Fox-Davies (1909:281) regarding letters of the alphabet as heraldic charges:

"Instances of these are scarcely common, but the family of Kekitmore[30] may be adduced as bearing 'Gules, three S's or,' while Bridlington Priory had for arms 'Per pale, sable and argent, three B's counterchanged.' [...] Corporate arms (in England) afford an instance of alphabetical letters in the case of the B's on the shield of Bermondsey."

One of the earliest instances of the use of letters as heraldic charges is that of the Langenmantel family of Augsburg. Rüdiger I Langenmantel (d. 1342), one of the leading figures of the Augsburg patriciate during the first four decades of the 14th century, is the founder of the "Langenmantel vom RR" branch of the family, derived from his coat of arms showing two letters R (for his given name), shown addorsed (as mirror images).[31]

Religious symbolism:


Ships and boats


Edinburgh Flag
Edinburgh Flag



Coat of arms of Albert, Prince Consort, showing the harp of Ireland within the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom in the first and fourth quarters and a crancelin (a crown of rue, an ornamental plant) as a part of the Coat of arms of Saxony in the second and third.
Coat of arms of Albert, Prince Consort, showing the harp of Ireland within the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom in the first and fourth quarters and a crancelin (a crown of rue, an ornamental plant) as a part of the Coat of arms of Saxony in the second and third.

Musical instruments include:


Arms of the Republic of the United Provinces: Gules, a crowned lion Or, armed and langued azure, holding a sword and a sheaf of arrows
Arms of the Republic of the United Provinces: Gules, a crowned lion Or, armed and langued azure, holding a sword and a sheaf of arrows


Clothing and other personal items


The arms of Bonsmoulins with a millwheel in the base
The arms of Bonsmoulins with a millwheel in the base


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles (1909). A complete guide to heraldry (1909). New York : Dodge. Retrieved 2013-08-21.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  3. ^ "Ukrainian heraldry".
  4. ^ "L'Armorial".
  5. ^ "Leg; Foot". Mistholme. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  6. ^ "Sole". Mistholme. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  7. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  8. ^ Martin Goldstraw. "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  9. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  10. ^ "Sex in Heraldry". 1997-06-26. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  11. ^ John Woodward and George Burnett, A Treatise on Heraldry, British and Foreign, page 203
  12. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  13. ^ "Cenotillo - Escudo - Coat of arms - crest of Cenotillo". Retrieved 2018-05-13.
  14. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  15. ^ From "Jack of Naples" (Jac-a-Napes), later (early modern period) reanalyzed as "jack-an-apes", taking "apes" as "ape, monkey". Monkeys were one of many exotic goods from Naples exhibited in England, hence acquired the nickname Jack a Napes (first attested 1450).
  16. ^ Charles Norton Elvin, Dictionary of Heraldry, 1889, plate 29, nos. 57–59. The monkey as heraldic animal remained comparatively rare, but it is on record from as early as the 14th century, as in the Affenstein crest from the Zürich armorial (c. 1340).
  17. ^ The coat of arms of the 64th Armor Regiment of the United States Army specifies, bizarrely, "the head of a fighting African elephant," though there should be no distinction made between this and the depiction of a default elephant.
  18. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  19. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  20. ^ a b c d e f Jacqueline Fearn. Discovering Heraldry. Shire Publications. pp. 40–41.
  21. ^ Gough, Henry (1894). A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry. J. Parker. p. 451. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
  22. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  23. ^ Gerard Michon (2004-06-19). "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  24. ^ Balfour Paul, James (1893). An Ordinary of Arms Contained in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland. William Green and Sons. pp. 108–109.
  25. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  26. ^ "" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  27. ^ Morant, Alfred William W. (1874). An Alphabetical Dictionary of Coats of Arms Belonging to Families in Great Britain and Ireland. Retrieved 2021-02-07.
  28. ^ "The FAME: Varazdin County - Communities". Retrieved 2018-05-27.
  29. ^ "" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  30. ^ John Guillim, A Display of Heraldry (1780), p. 295.
  31. ^ Ernst Heinrich Kneschke, Neues allgemeines deutsches Adelslexikon, vol. 5, Leipzig, (1864),388f.
  32. ^ A Complete Guide to Heraldry by A.C. Fox-Davies and J.P. Brook-Little (1969 edition), p. 212.
  33. ^ In the arms of the 91st Bombardment Group of the United States Air Force.Air Force Combat Units of World War II. p. 158.
  34. ^ Shown in the coats of arms of several units of the United States Air Force, such as the 508th Fighter Group.Air Force Combat Units of World War II. p. 371.
  35. ^ Air Force Combat Units of World War II, p.246
  36. ^ Air Force Combat Units of World War II. p. 187.
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^ Journal of the British Archaeological Association, Volume 13. British Archaeological Association., 1857 - Archaeology, Page 119
  42. ^ Balfour Paul, p. 41
  43. ^
  44. ^ "Weald and Downs Area". Civic Heraldry. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  45. ^ Air Force Combat Units of World War I, p.154
  46. ^ Tsubouchi, David Hiroshi (Individual), Public Register of Arms, Flags, and Badges of Canada

External links

This page was last edited on 14 March 2023, at 00:57
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