Dictionary Common Heraldic Symbols
Acacia Branch or
Leaves - Eternal and affectionate remembrance.
Agricultural Tools - Laboring in the earth and depending
upon providence; see also Scythe and Sickle.
Anchor - Hope.
Angel - Dignity, glory, and honor; missionary; bearer of
Ant - Great labor, wisdom, and providence in one's affairs.
Antlers - Strength and fortitude.
Anvil - Honor; emblem of the smith's trade.
Apple - Felicity and peace.
Arm in Armour - A person with qualities of leadership.
Arm, Naked - An industrious person.
Arrow - Readiness (for battle); if depicted with a cross,
represents an affliction.
Ass - Patience and humility.
Axe - Execution of military duty.
Banners - Refer to special action in which bearer was
captured, or a reward for valiant service.
Bar, Barry, or Barrulet - "One who sets the bar of
conscience, religion, and honor against angry passions and evil
Barry Wavy - Troubles keep us in continuous exercise and
reminders of providence (as waves in a storm at sea).
Baton - Token of authority.
Battle Axe - Execution of military duty.
Bay Leaves - Poet or victor's laurel.
Beacon - One who is watchful, who gave the signal in time of
Bear - Strength, cunning, ferocity in the protection of
Beaver - Industry and perseverance.
Bee - Efficient industry.
Bells - Power to disperse evil spirits; a hawk's bells
denotes one who was not afraid of signalling his approach in peace or war.
Bend - Scarf or shield suspender of a knight commander;
signifies defense or protection.
Boar - Bravery; fights to the death.
Boar's Head - Hospitality.
Bones (crossed thighbones) - Mortality.
Book - If open, manifestation; if closed, counsel.
Border - Difference between relatives bearing the same arms;
also an augmentation of an honor.
Bow - Readiness (for battle).
Bridge - Governor or magistrate.
Broom Plant - Humility.
Buck - One who will not fight unless provoked; peace and
Buckle - Victorious fidelity in authority.
Bull - Valor, bravery, generosity.
Bull's Horns - Strength and fortitude.
Butterfly - Psyche or Soul.
Camel - Docility, patience, and perseverance.
Cannon and Cannon Balls - One who has dared the terror of
such a weapon in battle.
Canton - As in a flag borne at the top comer of the shield;
reward from the sovereign for performance of eminent service.
Carnation - Admiration.
Carpenter's Square - Conforming one's actions to the
laws of right and equity.
Castle (Tower) - Safety.
Cat - Liberty, vigilance, forecast, and courage.
Centaur - Eminence in the field of battle.
Chains - Reward for acceptable and weighty service; with
crowns and collars, this suggests the bearer bore the chain of obligation
or obliged others because of services done.
Chaplet (Floral) - Usually with green leaves and four roses:
the crown of joy and admiration.
Cherub - Dignity, glory, and honor; missionary; bearer of
Chevron - Protection; Builders or others who have
accomplished some work of faithful service.
Chief - Top one-third of the shield; signifies dominion and
authority; often granted as a special reward for prudence and wisdom or
successful command in war.
Chough - (Cornish Crow) Strategist in
battle; watchful for friends.
Cinquefoils - Hope and joy.
Civic Wreath (of oak leaves and acorns) - One who saved a
fellow citizen's life or shown patriotism in defense of one's native land.
Clarion - Ready for war.
Claw of a Bird - Note the prey-er that has been preyed upon.
Cock (male bird) - Courage and perseverance; hero; able man
Cockatrice (small serpent) - Terror to all beholders.
Column - Fortitude and constancy; with serpent coiled around
it, wisdom with fortitude.
Cornucopia (horn of plenty) - The bounty of nature's gifts.
Crane (Stork) - Close parental bond; Vigilance if holding a
Crescent - One who has been honored by the sovereign, hope
of greater glory.
Cresset (Beacon) - One who is watchful, who gave the signal
in time of danger.
Cross - Service in the Crusades.
Cross Crosslet - (crossed at each end) Signifies the
fourfold mystery of the Cross.
Cross Flory (Patoncee) - (cross flowered at each end) One
who has conquered.
Cross Raguly - Difficulties encountered.
Crow (Cornish Chough) - Strategist in battle; watchful for
Crown (Mural) - Defender of a fortress, token of civic
honor; one who first mounted the breach in the walls of a fortress.
Crown (Naval) - One who first boarded an enemy's ship;
distinguished naval commander.
Cup (covered) - Office of the king's butler.
Cushions - Authority.
Cygnet (young swan) - Where gorged with a crown around
its neck, signifies dignity.
Cypress - Death and eternal life thereafter.
Deer - One who will not fight unless provoked; peace and
Dice - Constancy.
Dolphin - Swiftness, diligence, charity, and love.
Dragon - Valiant defender of treasure; valor and protection.
Drops (Guttes) - One who has endured torrents of liquids, as
in battle, depending upon the color of the liquid.
Black: pitch or tar.
Drum - Ready for war.
Dove - Loving constancy and peace; with an olive branch in its
bill, it signifies a harbinger of good tidings.
Duck - Person of many resources.
Eagle - Person of noble nature, strength, bravery, and
alertness; or one who is high-spirited, ingenious, quick-witted, and
judicious; "True magnanimity and strength of mind" ace. to
Guillim. If wings "displayed," it signifies protection.
Eagle with two heads - Conjoining of two forces.
Elephant - Great strength, wit, and ambition.
Escallop (scallop shell) - Traveler to far places or
victorious naval commander.
Escarbuncle - Supremacy; brilliant gem.
Escutcheon of Pretense - Claim of a prince to sovereignty;
or marriage to an heiress of the family.
Estoile (star with six wavy points) - Celestial goodness;
Falcon (Hawk) - One who does not rest until objective
Feathers - (usually ostrich feathers) Sign of obedience and
Fess - Military belt or girdle of honor; represents
readiness to serve the public.
Fetterlock - Victory; one who has taken prisoners or rescued
prisoners of war.
Fife - Ready for war.
Fire - Zealousness.
Fish - A true, generous mind, virtuous for himself, not
because of his heritage.
Flag - Refer to special action in which bearer was captured,
or a reward for valiant service.
Fleur-de-lis - Purity; light; floral badge of France;
represents sixth son as mark of difference.
Flint stone - Readiness for zealous service.
Flowers - Hope and joy.
Fountain - A roundel, crossed with wavy bars of blue and
white; represents water, a spring.
Fox - One who will use all that he/she may possess of wisdom
and wit in his/her own defense.
Fret (saltire through a mascle) - (Also, fretty or
Fruit - Felicity and peace.
Fusil (narrow lozenge) - Travel and labor.
Fusil of Yam (yam with the spindle) - Negotiation.
Gannet (duck) - One who has to subsist by virtue and merit.
Gauntlet - Armed for the performance of martial enterprise.
Goat - One who wins through politics rather than war.
Goose - Resourcefulness.
Grasshopper - Noble and home-bred.
Grenade - One who has dared the terror of such a weapon in
Greyhound - Courage, vigilance, and loyalty.
Griffin - (Head, wings, and talons of an eagle with the body
of a lion); Valor and death-defying bravery; vigilance.
Hammer - Honor; emblem of the smith's trade.
Hand - Pledge of faith, sincerity, and justice; two right
hands conjoined represent union and alliance.
Hare - One who enjoys a peaceable and retired life.
Harp - Well-composed person of tempered judgment;
Harpy (virgin's face, neck and breast with the body of a
lion) - Ferocity under provocation.
Hawk (Falcon) - One who does not rest until objective
Head (Human) - Honor; if the head of a "blackamoor"
or Moor, refers to deeds of prowess in the Crusades.
Heart, Flaming - Intense, burning affection.
Heart, Human - Charity and sincerity.
Hedgehog - "Provident provider" ace.
Helmet - When depicted on the shield, denotes wisdom and
security in defense.
Hind (Female Deer) - Peace and harmony.
Holly - Truth.
Horns - Strength and fortitude.
Horse - Readiness for all employments for king and country.
Horseshoe - Good luck and safeguard against evil spirits.
Hourglass - Flight of time; mortality.
Huitfoil - Mark of cadency for the ninth son.
Hunting Horn - One who is fond of the chase, of high
Hydra (dragon with seven heads) - Conquest of a very
Inescutcheon - See "Escutcheon of
lvy Leaves - Strong and lasting friendship.
Inkhorn - Art of writing and educated employment.
Keys - Guardianship and dominion.
Ladder - One who was fearless in attacking; if against a
tower, be on.
Lamb Paschal ( carrying staff or
banner with a cross) - Faith; Brave, resolute spirit.
Lamb - Gentleness
and patience under suffering.
Laurel Leaves - Peace and/or triumph.
Leg - Strength,
stability, and expedition.
Leopard - Valiant and hardy warrior
who enterprises hazardous things by force and courage.
Lightning Bolt - Swiftness and power.
Lily - Purity; see
Lion - Dauntless courage.
Lozenge - Constancy.
Lyre - Contemplation; tempered
Marigold - Devotion and piety.
Martlet (footless swallow) - Symbol of
the fourth son (mark of difference); may signify one who has to subsist by
virtue and merit, not inheritance.
Mascle (hollowed out lozenge) - Persuasive.
Mastiff - Courage, vigilance, and
Maunche (lady's sleeve) - "For my
Mermaid - Eloquence.
Moon - Serene power over
Moor - Dates back to the Middle Ages
when it was considered an honor to take a Moor's head.
Mortars - One who has dared the terror
of such a weapon in battle.
Mule - Often borne by abbots and
abbesses who have pastoral Jurisdiction, but not real jurisdiction.
Mullet (five-pointed star) - Divine
quality from above; mark of third son.
Musical Pipes - Festivity
Oak Tree, Leaves, Bush - Great age and
Oak Tree/Bush with Acorns - Continuous
growth and fertility.
Olive Branch or Leaves - Peace and
Ostrich - Willing obedience and
Otter - One who lives life to the
Ox - Valor and generosity.
Pale - Military strength.
Palm Branch - Victory, justice, and
Panther - Fierce, but tender
and loving to children and will defend with her life.
Passion Nails - Token
of poignant suffering undergone by the bearer.
Pavilion - Readiness
Peacock - Beauty,
power, and knowledge.
Pears - Felicity
Pegasus - Poetic
genius and inspiration.
Pelican - Self-sacrifice
and charitable nature.
Pen - Art
of writing and educated employment.
Pheon (Spearhead) - Dexterity
and nimble wit; readiness for battle.
Phoenix - Symbol
Pile - Represents
large pieces of wood used in building bridges; engineering skills, builder.
Pillar - Fortitude
and constancy; with serpent coiled around it, wisdom with fortitude.
Pincers - Honor;
emblem of the smith's trade.
Pine - Death
and eternal life thereafter.
Pine Cone - Life.
Pipes (music) - Festivity
Plume of feathers - Sign
of willing obedience and serenity of mind.
Pomegranate Fruit - Fertility
Portcullis (castle gate)
- Protection in an emergency.
Quatrefoil (Primrose) - Brings good tidings.
Rabbit (Conie) - One
who enjoys a peaceable and retired life.
Rainbow - Good
times after bad.
Ram - Authority.
Ratch-hound (small hound)
- Loyalty, courage, and vigilance.
Raven - Divine
Rhinoceros - Ferocious
Rock - Safety
and protection; refuge.
Rose - Mark
of the seventh son.
Rose, Red - Grace
Rose, White - Love
Roundels - (or treasure):
White: plate (generosity).
Green; pomme (apple).
Purple: goipe (wounded).
Blue: hurt or wortleberry.
Black: pellet, ogress, or gunstone (cannon ball).
Red: torteau (communion wafer or manchet cake).
Tawney: orange (tennis ball).
Saddle - Preparedness for active service.
Salamander - Protection.
Saltire - (St. Andrew's Cross) Resolution.
Scallop Shell - See "Escallop".
Scythe or Sickle - The hope of a fruitful harvest.
Seraphim - (angel with three pairs of wings) Dignity, glory,
and honor; missionary, bearer of joyful news.
Serpent/Snake - Wisdom.
Shacklebolt - Victory; one who has taken prisoners or
rescued prisoners of war.
Shamrock - Perpetuity; floral device of Ireland.
Shield - When borne on the arms, represents the defender.
Ship - Ancient sea voyages.
Ship Dismasted - Disaster at sea.
Skull - Mortality.
Snail - Deliberation and perseverance.
Snake - Wisdom.
Spear - Honorable warrior; valiant knight.
Spear-heads (Pheons) - Dexterity and nimble wit; readiness
Sphere - Geographical or scientific reference.
Sphinx - Omniscience and secrecy.
Spider - Wisdom, labor, and prudence.
Spur - Preparedness for active service; pressing onward.
Square - Constancy.
Squirrel - Lover of the woods.
Stag - One who will not fight unless provoked; peace and
Stag's Antlers - Strength and fortitude.
Steel - Readiness for zealous service.
Stirrup - Preparedness for active service.
Stool - Hospitality.
Stork - Filial duty, close parental bond; If holding a rock,
Sun - Glory and splendor; fountain of life.
Swallow - One who is prompt and ready in doing business;.
Swan - Poetic harmony and learning, or lover thereof.
Sword - Justice and military honor.
Table - Hospitality.
Tabor - Festivity and rejoicing.
Talbot - Courage, vigilance, and loyalty.
Tent - Readiness for battle.
Tiger - Fierceness and valour; resentment dangerous if
Torch - Zealousness; engaging in signal service.
Tortoise - Invulnerability to attack.
Tower - Safety and grandeur.
Tree Trunk - New life sprouting from the old.
Trefoil or Shamrock (three-leaved grass) - Perpetuity.
Trestle - Hospitality.
Trumpet - Ready for war.
Unicorn - Extreme courage; virtue and strength.
Vine - Strong and lasting friendship.
Water Bouget - One who carried water to an army or a
Wheat-Ears - Faithful.
Wheat Garb or Sheaf - The harvest of one's hopes has been
Wheel - Fortune.
Wings - Swiftness and protection.
Wolf - Reward from perseverance in long sieges and/or hard
- Love that does not injure that which it clings to.
Wreath of laurel leaves and berries - Triumph.
Wyvern (Dragon with only two legs) - Valour and protection.
Yew - Death and eternal life thereafter.
Symbolic Defining Factors
Colors: can have special
meaning in a "family crest" or coat of arms:
Gold (Or) - Generosity and elevation of the mind.
Silver (Argent) - Peace and sincerity.
Red (Gules) - Warrior or martyr; Military strength and magnanimity.
Blue (Azure) - Truth and loyalty.
Green (Vert) - Hope, joy, and loyalty in love.
Black (Sable) - Constancy or grief.
Purple (Purpure) - Royal majesty, sovereignty, and justice.
Orange (Tawny or Tenne) - Worthy ambition.
Maroon (Sanguine or Murray) - Patient in battle, and yet
The mere fact that a shield or crest contains furs suggests a mark of
dignity. The furs are ermine (black with white spots), erminois (yellow or
gold with black spots), vair (geometric design, usually blue and white),
and pean (black with yellow or gold spots):
Nebuly Line - Clouds or air.
Wavy Line - Sea or water.
Engrailed Line - Earth or land.
Invected Line - Earth or land.
Indented Line - Fire.
Dancette Line - Water.
Raguly Line - Difficulties that have been encountered.
Embattled Line - Walls of a fortress or town (also, fire).