The Meanings and Origins Behind Common Heraldry Symbols

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Heraldry is the practice of designing, displaying, describing, and recording coats of arms and badges. Coats of arms are unique designs used to identify families, individuals, organizations, and countries. These designs are made up of various symbols, such as animals, plants, objects, and patterns, each with their own meanings and origins. In this article, we will explore some of the most common heraldry symbols and their significance.


One of the most recognizable heraldic symbols is the lion. Lions have been used on coats of arms since the 12th century and are typically depicted in a rampant position, standing up on their hind legs. Lions were chosen for their symbolism of courage, strength, and nobility. The use of lions on the coat of arms was also a way to show allegiance to the English monarchy, as the lion was a prominent symbol in English heraldry.


Dragons are another popular symbol in heraldry. They are often depicted with wings and in a rampant position, similar to lions. Dragons were chosen for their symbolism of power and strength. They were also associated with mythical tales of heroism and conquest. Dragons were used on the coat of arms of Welsh princes to show their connection to the legendary dragon of their folklore.


Eagles are another common symbol in heraldry. They are usually depicted with spread wings and in a rampant position. Eagles were chosen for their symbolism of freedom, strength, and courage. They were also used to symbolize patriotism and loyalty. The eagle was a popular symbol on the coat of arms of many ancient civilizations, including Rome, the Byzantine Empire, and the Holy Roman Empire.


Crosses are one of the most simple yet powerful symbols in heraldry. The cross can represent a person’s faith, honor, and devotion. It can also represent victory, martyrdom, and sacrifice. The most common cross used in heraldry is the Latin cross, which is made up of a vertical and horizontal line of equal length. The Celtic cross, which incorporates a circle, and the Maltese cross, which has eight points, are also popular variations. The cross was used on the coat of arms of many knights and crusaders as a symbol of their bravery and religious convictions.


Flowers are a popular symbol in heraldry, often used to represent beauty, love, and purity. The most commonly used flower is the rose, which has been used in heraldry since the 13th century. The rose can represent love, passion, and family. Other popular flowers used in heraldry include the lily, which can represent purity and peace, and the fleur-de-lis, which is a stylized lily and a symbol of French royalty.


In addition to lions and dragons, many other animals have been used as symbols in heraldry. These include bears, deer, horses, and fish, each with their own meanings and origins. Bears are often used to represent strength and courage, while deer can represent gentleness and grace. Horses can symbolize speed, agility, and nobility, while fish can represent wealth and abundance.


Heraldry symbols have been used for centuries to identify families, organizations, and countries. Each symbol has its own unique meaning and origin, and understanding the significance behind these symbols can provide insight into the history and culture of a particular group. Whether it’s the courage of the lion, the power of the dragon, or the beauty of the flower, heraldry symbols continue to be an important part of our visual language.