The Origins and Evolution of Coat of Arms

Through the ages, coat of arms have played a significant role in the history and culture of many countries and societies. These heraldic symbols were originally designed to represent noble families and their heritage, but have since evolved to become a broader symbol of identity and pride. From medieval knights to modern-day corporations, the origins and evolution of coat of arms have a fascinating history that spans across cultures and continents. In this article, we will delve into the intriguing meanings and intricate designs of coat of arms, as well as explore their modern-day usage in government, corporate identity, and personal life.

What Are Coat of Arms?

What Are Coat Of Arms?
Coat of Arms are unique heraldic designs used by families, organizations, and countries for identification purposes. These designs were originally used by knights to identify themselves in battle, but gradually evolved into more elaborate symbols representing status and wealth. The tradition of using coat of arms became popular in Medieval Europe, and today, they continue to hold significant meaning in many parts of the world. Each coat of arms consists of different components, including a shield, motto, crest, and supporters. The colors, animals, and objects that appear on the shield also carry distinct meanings. To learn more about the history and significance of coat of arms, read on under the Origins of Coat of Arms heading.

The Origins of Coat of Arms

The origins of coat of arms date back to the medieval times when knights used personalized heraldic designs on their shields and armor to identify themselves in battle. The word “heraldry” comes from the term “herald” which means to proclaim or announce. The role of the herald was to carry and announce the coat of arms of noblemen during tournaments, battles, and other important events.

The use of coat of arms gradually spread beyond the ranks of the nobility, and by the 13th century, they were being used by the wealthy merchant class as well. However, it wasn’t until the 14th century that coat of arms became more standardized and regulated by the authorities, with each country having their own set of rules and regulations.

The earliest coat of arms were simple designs, often consisting of just one or two colors, such as a gold lion on a red background or a silver eagle on a blue background. These designs were easy to recognize and could be identified from a distance. As the use of coat of arms became more widespread, designs became more complex, incorporating additional colors and symbols.

Some of the original coat of arms designs have survived to this day, and they offer an interesting glimpse into the history of heraldry. For example, the coat of arms of the royal family of England features three lions passant guardant, a design that has been used since the 12th century. The coat of arms of the Medici family of Florence features six red balls on a gold background, which are believed to represent coins and symbolize the family’s wealth.

The origins of coat of arms are tied to the medieval period, and they have evolved over time to become the iconic symbols we know today. To learn more about the coat of arms of famous families around the world, check out our article on famous families and their coat of arms.

Evolution of Coat of Arms

The history of Coat of Arms goes back to medieval Europe where knights wore armor and helmets that concealed their identity. To identify themselves, knights created designs or symbols that represented their identity and accomplishments. Over time, these symbols became more elaborate and intricate, reflecting the warrior’s status, social standing, and achievements.

In the early stages of European heraldry, the design of Coat of Arms was typically simple and featured solid colors and shapes. However, as heraldry spread across Europe, the designs became more elaborate and intricate.

During the Renaissance period, Coat of Arms started incorporating more artistic elements, such as complex designs, images, and pictorial representation. The colors and patterns used in Coat of Arms also became more varied and distinct, with different regions adopting unique styles.

In the modern era, Coat of Arms have continued to evolve, with new designs being created and adopted for various organizations, such as corporations and governments. While the traditional elements of heraldry, such as colors, shapes, and symbols, continue to be used, modern Coat of Arms also incorporate digital design and imagery.

The evolution of Coat of Arms is a fascinating history that shows the importance of identity, status, and achievement in human culture. Despite the changes over time, Coat of Arms remain a rich tradition that continues to be used in modern times.

To learn more about the modern use of Coat of Arms, click here.

The Components of a Coat of Arms

Every coat of arms consists of several essential components that make it unique and personalized. The first component is the shield, which is the central part of the coat of arms design. The shield is usually the main area where different symbols, shapes, and colors are incorporated to represent the individual or organization. Besides, the color of the shield is also essential and used to identify the organization or individual.

The second component is the crest, which is usually located above the shield. It contains different symbols, such as animals, plants, or shapes, to describe the background or the personality of the bearer. The crest is a crucial part of the coat of arms and is used to indicate origin, rank, or achievements.

The motto is also an essential component of the coat of arms and is placed on a ribbon on the bottom of the design. The motto is usually a short phrase that reflects the bearer’s beliefs, personality, or family history.

Moreover, helmets, supporters, and other decorative elements can also be added to enrich the coat of arms design. Helmets are usually used to indicate the bearer’s rank, and supporters are animals or mythological creatures placed on either side of the shield to add beauty and symbolism to the coat of arms design.

Incorporating these components in a unique and personalized way, makes each coat of arms different and distinguishable from others.

The components of a coat of arms are critical to the design as they represent the individual or organization. They tell a story about who they are, their rank, and their achievements. Knowing the components of a coat of arms is useful in understanding the many color emblems of coat arms and what they signify.

Meanings Behind the Symbols

The symbols used in a coat of arms have deep meanings and remarkable significance. Each element, color, animal, and object has its own interpretation. The colors have specific associations such as red for courage, blue for loyalty, gold for generosity, and white for peace. The animals depicted in the coat of arms represent various qualities, for example, the lion represents bravery and strength while the unicorn represents purity and virtue. The objects also have their own meanings; a crown symbolizes power and authority, a sword signifies justice or military strength, and a book represents knowledge or faith. Understanding the symbols of a coat of arms is essential for understanding the rich history and culture they represent.

The Colors and Their Meanings

Colors play an important role in the world of heraldry and coat of arms. The choice of colors used in a coat of arms holds significant meanings that represent the values and characteristics of the individual, family, or organization it represents.

Here are some of the most common colors used in heraldry and their meanings:

Color Meaning
Gules (red) Signifies warrior or martyr; military strength and magnanimity
Or (gold) Represents generosity and elevation of the mind
Argent (silver) Denotes peace and sincerity
Azure (blue) Symbolizes truth and loyalty, as well as serenity and strength
Purpure (purple) Represents royalty and sovereignty, as well as justice and temperance
Vert (green) Signifies hope, joy, and loyalty in love
Sable (black) Denotes constancy, grief, and wisdom when used together with other colors
Tenne (orange) Symbolizes worthy ambition and the willingness to accomplish goals

It’s interesting to note that each color can be paired with other colors to create a more complex and meaningful coat of arms. For example, gules (red) paired with argent (silver) represents warrior or martyr for God and country, while or (gold) paired with sable (black) represents wisdom and constancy.

Ultimately, the colors used in a coat of arms are chosen based on the characteristics and values that the individual, family, or organization wants to embody and convey. The rich history and symbolism behind each color make coat of arms an unparalleled form of personal identification and recognition.

The Animals and Their Meanings

The animals present in a coat of arms have significant meanings behind them. These meanings sometimes relate to the characteristics of the animal or the historical context surrounding the coat of arms.

One common animal seen in coat of arms is the lion. Known as the “king of beasts”, the lion symbolizes strength, courage, and bravery. It is often seen in coats of arms for nobility and royalty. The unicorn, on the other hand, is a symbol of purity, divine power, and healing.

Another popular animal seen in coat of arms is the eagle. The eagle represents strength, courage, and freedom. It is also a symbol of the United States of America. A bear is a symbol of great strength and resilience, while a wolf is often associated with loyalty, intelligence, and guardianship.

The panther is known for its grace and agile nature, while the leopard conveys speed, intelligence, and hunting prowess. The stag is a symbol of great leadership and nobility.

In addition to these animals, there are also mythical creatures that appear in coats of arms. The dragon, for example, is a symbol of fierce power and strength. It can also represent the conquest of evil.

The animals in a coat of arms play an important role in conveying the values and personality of the family or organization that it represents. It is important to understand the meanings behind these symbols in order to fully appreciate the rich history and culture surrounding coat of arms.

The Objects and Their Meanings

When it comes to objects in coat of arms, each one carries a specific meaning or significance. Some of the common objects found on coat of arms include:

Object Meaning
Keys Keys on a coat of arms typically represent spiritual knowledge or guardianship
Swords Swords represent strength, justice, and military honor. They can also symbolize a readiness to fight for a cause or defend oneself and others.
Ships Ships often represent a long voyage or journey, or a person’s profession or occupation. They can also symbolize a connection to the sea or a sense of adventure.
Books Books symbolize knowledge, learning, and wisdom. They can also represent study or academic achievement.
Flowers Flowers are often used as a decorative element on coat of arms, but they can also have specific meanings. For example, roses typically represent love and beauty, while daisies can represent innocence or purity.

Other common objects found on coat of arms include horns, crowns, banners, and eagles. These objects can have various meanings depending on the context in which they are used. In some cases, the meaning of an object on a coat of arms may change over time or within different cultures. Regardless of their specific meaning, objects on coat of arms help to tell the full story of a family’s history and achievements.

Coat of Arms Around the World

Coat Of Arms Around The World
Throughout history, coat of arms have been used to represent families, communities, and even nations. These emblems or heraldic devices have evolved over time, with unique features and designs that are specific to different regions of the world. In Europe, coat of arms have a long and storied history rooted in medieval traditions. In Asia, coat of arms take on a more symbolic and abstract form, reflecting the region’s cultural and artistic heritage. In Africa, coat of arms were often used to identify different tribes and clans, while in the Americas, they were used to represent colonial powers and later, newly formed nations. Today, coat of arms continue to be used in a variety of ways, from government and corporate identity to personal use, serving as a powerful symbol of heritage, identity, and pride.

Coat of Arms in Europe

Europe is the origin of coat of arms and each country has its own unique designs and symbols. From the medieval era to modern times, coat of arms has been an important part of European culture, used for identification, status, and recognition.

There are several countries in Europe that have fascinating history of coat of arms. Some of them include:

  • England: The English coat of arms is a lion rampant, symbolizing strength and courage. It has a rich history dating back to the 12th century. The current coat of arms includes a lion and a unicorn representing the unity between England and Scotland.
  • France: The French coat of arms features three fleurs-de-lys, which symbolize purity and honor. It was first used in the 12th century by French kings and has undergone several changes over the centuries.
  • Germany: The German coat of arms is a black eagle on a gold background. It has been in use since the Holy Roman Empire and has undergone several changes over time, depending on the ruling dynasty.
  • Spain: The Spanish coat of arms is a shield with a castle and a lion, symbolizing strength and courage. It has a rich history dating back to the Roman era and has undergone several changes over the centuries.
  • Italy: The Italian coat of arms features a shield with a white eagle on a red background, symbolizing purity and patriotism. It has a rich history dating back to the Roman era and has undergone several changes over the centuries.

These coat of arms designs have not only been used by the ruling monarchs and their families but also by the nobility, military, and various organizations. They represented not only the individual but also the country, and were used in official documents, seals, coins, and flags.

In modern times, many European countries still use coat of arms as a symbol of national identity and pride. They are used in official government documents and ceremonies, as well as in corporate branding and logos.

Europe has a rich and fascinating history of coat of arms, with each country having its own unique designs and symbols that showcase their history and culture.

Coat of Arms in Asia

The use of coat of arms in Asia dates back centuries ago. However, unlike the European countries, the designs and symbols used in Asian coat of arms are unique to each country and even different cities within the country. One of the most prominent examples of coat of arms in Asia is the Imperial Seal of Japan. This seal was used by the Japanese emperor as a symbol of power and authority. It features 16 flower petals surrounding a chrysanthemum in the center, representing the Japanese imperial family.

In China, the use of coat of arms was more prevalent during the imperial dynasties. The imperial families would use their family crests as a symbol of their authority. These family crests were often associated with the teachings of Confucius and were symbolic of the virtues of the family. Some of the most popular crests in China include the dragon, the phoenix, and the lion.

Similarly, in India, the use of coat of arms was often tied to religious and mythological beliefs. Many royal families in India adopted symbols associated with Hindu deities and mythological creatures. For example, the coat of arms of the Mughal Empire featured a sun and a lion, which were symbolic of the Persian god Mithra and the power of the empire.

In Southeast Asia, coat of arms were also used by various kingdoms and empires. The Burmese coat of arms, for instance, featured two chinthe (mythical lion-like creatures) facing each other, holding up a sacred Buddhist jewel. Cambodia’s coat of arms, on the other hand, features a depiction of the ancient temple of Angkor Wat.

Coat of arms in Asia have been used to represent each country’s unique culture, history, and beliefs. While some of these symbols have been adopted across countries and regions, each coat of arms has its own distinct meaning and significance.

Coat of Arms in Africa

Coat of Arms in Africa have a rich history that reflect the diverse cultural heritage of the continent. Each country in Africa has its own Coat of Arms that has been designed to represent its unique identity, values and history.

South Africa has one of the most recognizable Coat of Arms in Africa. The primary focus of the South African Coat of Arms is to represent the nation’s motto of “Unity in Diversity”. The Coat of Arms features a shield divided into six sections, each representing one of the country’s six regions. The crest on top of the shield is a protea, South Africa’s national flower. Two human figures support the shield, representing the people of South Africa, one of whom is a Khoisan woman, an indigenous group of South Africa.

Ghana’s Coat of Arms features a shield divided into four sections, each representing a part of the country. The center of the shield features a lion, which represents the country’s close ties to the Commonwealth. At the top of the shield is a black star, which represents the people of Ghana and their commitment to freedom. The supporters of the shield are a tamed leopard and a heraldic eagle.

Nigeria’s Coat of Arms features a black shield with two supporting horses or chargers, on each side of the shield are green palm trees, and at the top is a red eagle on a white field. The black shield represents Nigeria’s fertile soil, while the two supporting horses or chargers on each side represent dignity. The eagle represents strength, while the green and white bands on the top of the shield represent the rich soil.

Kenya’s Coat of Arms features two lions supporting a traditional Maasai shield. The shield and spears symbolize the defense of all the things mentioned on the Coat of Arms. The shield contains two crossed spears, symbolizing the readiness of the people to defend their freedom, while the rooster’s head standing on the top point of the shield represents the dawn of a new day. The shield is divided into thirds, each of which contains a picture of a symbolic representation of Kenya’s economy.

Egypt’s Coat of Arms depicts a golden eagle looking towards the viewer’s left. The eagle is a symbol of power, strength, and authority. On the eagle’s chest is a shield with the colors of the Egyptian flag and a scroll with the Arabic name of Egypt, “Jumhūrīyat Mişr al-`Arabīyah” (Arab Republic of Egypt).

Coat of Arms in Africa are an important part of the culture and heritage of the continent. They represent the values, history, and identity of the various countries and their people.

Coat of Arms in the Americas

The use of Coat of Arms in the Americas can be traced back to the 16th century. When European powers began colonizing the New World, they brought with them the tradition of heraldry and Coat of Arms. These symbols were used to represent the power and authority of the colonial governments and to distinguish their territories from one another.

In present-day, the use of Coat of Arms is still prevalent in many countries in the Americas, both in government and personal use. In fact, almost every country in South America has its own unique Coat of Arms. Here are some examples of Coat of Arms in the region:

Country Coat of Arms
Mexico Coat of Arms of Mexico
United States Seal of the United States
Argentina Coat of Arms of Argentina
Peru Coat of Arms of Peru

Mexico’s Coat of Arms features an eagle perched on a cactus, a symbol taken from an Aztec legend. The eagle is holding a snake in its mouth, another callback to Aztec mythology. The United States’ Seal features an eagle with outstretched wings, holding arrows in one talon and an olive branch in the other, symbolizing the country’s readiness for war and its desire for peace. Argentina’s Coat of Arms features a golden sun, which is said to represent the Inca sun god Inti, as well as two hands shaking, symbolizing unity and friendship. Peru’s Coat of Arms features a vicuña, a type of South American camelid, which is native to the country and highly valued for its wool.

Coat of Arms in the Americas serve as a reminder of the region’s complex history and cultural diversity. They continue to be used to represent the people, the land, and the values of their respective countries, both within their borders and abroad.

Modern Use of Coat of Arms

In modern times, Coat of Arms are still widely used, though not always for their original purpose. Governments continue to use them as symbols of national identity, as seen in the Coats of Arms of many countries. Corporations also utilize them as part of their corporate identity, adding a sense of prestige and history to their brand. Individuals may choose to create their own Coat of Arms as a way of expressing their personal identity or family history. While their original purpose may have been rooted in warfare and nobility, today Coat of Arms serve a variety of purposes, both practical and symbolic.

Coat of Arms in Government

In the context of government, coat of arms are a symbol of authority and power. Government bodies have been using coat of arms for centuries as a means of establishing their legitimacy and identity. In many countries, the coat of arms of the head of state or monarch is used as the national coat of arms, representing the state or nation as a whole.

The use of coat of arms for governments can be traced back to medieval times, when coats of arms represented the identity of a knight or nobleman. In the context of government, the coat of arms represented the identity of the monarch and the state.

In some countries, the coat of arms is used as the emblem of the national government and is emblazoned on official documents, currency, and other important objects. For example, the coat of arms of the United States is prominently featured on the presidential seal, as well as on American currency.

In addition to national coat of arms, many regional and local government bodies use their own coat of arms as a symbol of their authority and identity. For example, many cities and towns throughout Europe have their own coat of arms, which often feature local landmarks or historical symbols.

The use of coat of arms in government has also inspired the creation of official heraldic authorities, which are responsible for creating and regulating coat of arms. These authorities ensure that coat of arms are used appropriately and accurately reflect the identity of the government or organization they represent.

The use of coat of arms in government has a rich history and continues to play an important role in establishing the legitimacy and identity of national and local government bodies around the world.

Coat of Arms in Corporate Identity

Coat of Arms have been used in corporate identity since the Middle Ages. A company’s Coat of Arms can represent its history, values and reputation. It can also serve as an important branding tool. Many companies have created their own Coat of Arms to represent their brand. Some examples of companies that use Coat of Arms in their corporate identity are:

Company Coat of Arms Description
Barclays Bank Barclays Bank’s Coat of Arms features a winged griffin which symbolizes watchfulness, bravery, strength and vigilance. The eagle represents strength and immunity.
Harley-Davidson The Harley-Davidson Coat of Arms features a shield divided into four quarters, each representing an important aspect of the company’s culture – the American flag for patriotism, the eagle for freedom, the NY/NJ crest for the historic birthplace of the company, and the V-twin engine for the performance of their motorcycles.
Microsoft Microsoft’s Coat of Arms features a simple design, representing the company’s clean and innovative ethos. The logo includes an image of a computer monitor to represent technology and a globe to signify their global reach.
Levi Strauss & Co. The Levi’s Coat of Arms features two horses on either side of a shield. The horses represent the mobility of the company’s products, while the shield is divided into three segments featuring clothing, the Golden Gate Bridge (representing San Francisco where the company was founded) and a river (representing the company’s original location near a flowing river).

The use of Coat of Arms in corporate identity has helped companies to establish their brand identity and differentiate themselves from competitors. It has also served as a visual representation of their company’s values and history. With the rise of digital media and global communication, many companies have modified their Coat of Arms to reflect their modern identity and to appeal to a global audience.

Coat of Arms in Personal Use

Coat of Arms in Personal Use can be seen in various ways. It could be a way to showcase one’s family heritage, honor a particular profession or organization, or simply as a form of personal expression.

One common way to use Coat of Arms personally is by creating a custom design. This personalized design may incorporate elements that are significant to the individual, such as their initials, favorite animals, or even their hobbies. It could also include a motto that represents their personal beliefs or values.

Another way to use Coat of Arms is by obtaining a pre-made design from a reputable source. This can be particularly useful for those who are interested in family history, as there are many sources that provide Coat of Arms for specific surnames. These designs may feature animals, colors, or symbols that are associated with the individual’s family history or nationality.

It is also possible for individuals to create Coat of Arms for specific events or occasions. For example, a couple might create a Coat of Arms to commemorate their wedding or a family might create one to celebrate a reunion. These designs can incorporate elements that are specific to the event, such as the date or location, as well as symbols or colors that are significant to the family.

Coat of Arms can be a meaningful way for individuals to express their personal identity and history. By incorporating symbols and colors that are significant to them, individuals can create a design that is unique to their personal story and values.



In conclusion, the coat of arms has a fascinating history that spans centuries and continents. From its origins as a practical identification tool for knights to its evolution into a symbol of family and national identity, the coat of arms has undergone many changes.

Throughout history, the coat of arms has played an important role in a variety of contexts ranging from government to personal use. Its unique symbols and colors have deep meanings that reflect the values and beliefs of the people they represent.

While the use of coat of arms may have changed over time, it remains an important part of modern society. Whether it’s used to identify a family lineage or a corporation, the coat of arms continues to serve as a symbol of pride and identity.

In today’s globalized world, the coat of arms has also become a tool for bringing people together. By highlighting the similarities and differences between different cultures and regions, the coat of arms can help build bridges and promote understanding.

Overall, the coat of arms stands as a testament to humanity’s desire for identity, belonging, and self-expression. Its rich history and symbolism continue to inspire us, and it will likely remain an important part of our cultural heritage for generations to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of a Coat of Arms?

A Coat of Arms was originally designed to identify a person in battle. It was also used to represent a family or individual’s power, lineage, and achievements.

Who created the first Coat of Arms?

The concept of a Coat of Arms was developed in the twelfth century by the Normans, but the first recorded use of a Coat of Arms was by the English knight, Sir Geoffrey de Mandeville, in 1127.

Are Coat of Arms still relevant today?

Yes, in many countries, Coat of Arms continue to be used as official emblems for government agencies, universities, and even corporations. Many families also have a Coat of Arms as a symbol of their heritage and tradition.

What are the most common components of a Coat of Arms?

The primary components of a Coat of Arms are the shield, helmet, crest, mantling, supporters, and motto. These components can vary in design and significance based on the person or family’s history and background.

What do the colors on a Coat of Arms represent?

Each color on a Coat of Arms has a specific meaning. For example, red represents bravery and strength, while white represents peace and sincerity. The combination and arrangement of colors can also have significant meaning.

What animals are commonly used in Coat of Arms designs?

Lions, eagles, horses, and dragons are some of the most commonly used animals in Coat of Arms designs. These animals are often chosen for their historical or cultural significance.

Can anyone create their own Coat of Arms?

Technically, yes, but creating a Coat of Arms requires an understanding of heraldry and the history and symbolism of each component. It’s recommended to work with a professional heraldic artist or researcher to produce an accurate and meaningful Coat of Arms.

What is the difference between a Coat of Arms and a logo?

A Coat of Arms is a detailed emblem that represents a family or individual’s history and values. A logo, on the other hand, is a simplified symbol that represents a brand or company.

How do Coat of Arms differ around the world?

Coat of Arms designs can vary significantly by country and culture. For example, European Coat of Arms often feature animals and mythological creatures, while African Coat of Arms often include weapons and tools to symbolize power and strength.

Are there rules for how a Coat of Arms should be displayed?

Yes, there are specific guidelines for how a Coat of Arms should be displayed. For example, the shield should always be the centerpiece and should not be combined with other emblems. The motto should also be displayed below the shield.


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