Understanding the Significance of Colors and Figures on Coat of Arms

Coat of Arms is a tradition that has been passed down through generations and holds significant historical and cultural importance. From colors to figures and emblems, every element on a Coat of Arms has a unique meaning and symbolism attached to it. Whether it’s the national Coat of Arms or a family’s personal shield, the meanings behind every detail can help us better understand the history and identity of its owner. In this article, we will explore the fascinating history of the Coat of Arms, unravel its symbolism, and learn how to interpret colors, figures, and emblems on heraldic shields. So, let’s dive into the world of Coat of Arms and discover the hidden stories behind each symbol and color.

History of Coat of Arms

History Of Coat Of Arms
The history of Coat of Arms dates back to medieval Europe when knights wore distinctive designs on their shields and armor to identify themselves in battle. The use of emblems became more widespread over time, eventually extending beyond the military to nobility, clergy, and even commoners. The designs evolved along with the culture, and by the Middle Ages, the use of colors and figures had developed into an elaborate system of symbolism. Today, the tradition of heraldry lives on, with families and corporations continuing to use coat of arms as a way to represent their identities through design and symbolism.

The Origin of Using Coat of Arms

Coat of Arms, also known as heraldry, was first used in medieval Europe as a means of identification. Knights used to wear distinctive colors and emblems on their shields, surcoats, and other armor to differentiate themselves from their enemies during battles and jousting tournaments. The use of Coat of Arms became popular after the 12th century when the concept of chivalry and knighthood became prevalent.

Coat of Arms was not limited to knights alone; it was used by the nobility, including thrones and religious orders. The concept was later adopted by the bourgeoisie, and even the commoners began using them as a symbol of their trade or profession.

The origin of Coat of Arms can be traced back to ancient times when warriors used animal hides as their distinctive identification marks. The Greeks and Romans used heraldic devices on their shields, which represented the state or tribe to which they belonged.

Over time, the design and use of Coat of Arms became more complex, and strict rules and regulations were established to govern their creation and use. The first records of rules and regulations pertaining to Coat of Arms date back to the 13th century, when the heralds were appointed by the monarchs to regulate the use of heraldic devices.

The use of Coat of Arms has evolved over time and is still prevalent today. It is used by individuals, families, organizations, cities, and even countries to represent their identity. The evolution of Coat of Arms has come a long way, and it still holds a significant place in the modern world today.

Interesting Facts:
The color red was used in a Coat of Arms to represent courage and bravery, while blue was used to represent loyalty and truth.
The design of a Coat of Arms was used on other items besides armor, including tapestries, clothing, and dishes.
The use of Coat of Arms was not limited to Europe alone, but it was also used in countries like Japan and Korea.

Source: coat-of-arms-medieval-europe

Development and Evolution of Its Design

The design of the coat of arms went through a significant evolution throughout history. The early designs were simple and consisted of basic shapes and symbols. Later, in the medieval period, the designs became more elaborate and intricate, reflecting the social status and wealth of the person or family. During the Renaissance period, the designs became more artistic, and the use of colors became more prevalent. The 16th and 17th centuries were the golden age of heraldry, with coat of arms designs becoming more complex and containing numerous symbols.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the design of coat of arms underwent a significant transformation with the rise of the neoclassical movement. The new designs featured simpler shapes and reduced colors. During this period, the designers also began using new materials, such as paper and printing, instead of traditional painting on shields. The Industrial Revolution also influenced the design of coat of arms by introducing new manufacturing techniques that allowed for mass production of heraldic designs.

In the present day, the design of coat of arms has become more varied and colorful, with many families creating their own unique designs. The internet has also made it easier for people to research and design their own coats of arms. The trend of designing personalized coat of arms has become increasingly popular in recent years, with individuals and organizations creating their own unique heraldic designs.

The evolution of the design of coat of arms has mirrored the changes in society and culture over time. From the simple designs of early civilizations to the complex and elaborate designs of the medieval period, to the simpler neoclassical designs and present-day personalized creations, the coat of arms remains an enduring symbol of pride and heritage.

Colors and Their Meanings

The colors used in coat of arms are not merely a form of art but have significant meanings. Each color represents different qualities and characteristics. Hue Symbolism in Heraldry is a complex study of color meanings in coat of arms design. For example, red represents passion and courage while blue symbolizes loyalty and truth. Commonly Used Color Meanings and Their Interpretation include green as a color symbolizing growth and abundance, while black denotes grief or death. The use of Tinctures in Blazonry, or the method of describing coats of arms through color and symbols, have become an integral part of the coat of arms. Understanding the meanings behind colors helps to decode the hidden messages masters of heraldry were trying to convey through their designs.

Hue Symbolism in Heraldry

One of the significant elements of heraldry is the use of color or hue to convey a specific meaning or symbolism. Colors have been used since ancient times as a means of expressing emotions and ideas and were likewise employed in heraldry to convey important messages.

Colors used in heraldry are divided into two categories: the metal (gold and silver) and tincture (colored) groups. In heraldry, metal hues symbolize characteristics of virtue, truth, and light. On the other hand, tincture hues are used to reflect traits such as courage, perseverance, and justice.

In heraldry, the gold color represents excellence, achievement, and prosperity, while silver symbolizes peace, sincerity, and purity. Among the tinctures, red represents valor, military strength, and magnanimity. The color blue, on the other hand, stands for piety, loyalty, and truth.

The colors green and black have quite different kinds of symbolism. Green signifies youth, hope, and joy, while black is used to symbolize affliction, sadness, and grief.

Examples of hues and their meanings

1. Red and gold are the colors found on the flag of Spain. In heraldic terms, these colors denote both military might and wealth.

2. The British Flag – also known as the Union Jack – combines the colors blue, red, and white. Blue signifies stability and loyalty, red represents bravery and sacrifice, and white stands for peace and honesty.

3. The flag of the United States of America is a combination of red, white, and blue. The red represents valor and strength, white symbolizes hope and innocence, and blue conveys vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

In heraldry, colors are utilized to convey meaningful messages and to draw attention to crucial characteristics. Understanding the hue symbolism of coat of arms can provide insight into the history, values, and beliefs of the bearer.

Commonly Used Color Meanings and Their Interpretation

In heraldry, colors are as significant as the emblems themselves. Each color has its own interpretation and meaning, which gives context to the emblem it appears with. Here are the commonly used color meanings and their interpretations in heraldry:

Color Meaning
Red Represents courage, military strength, and magnanimity.
Blue Symbolizes loyalty, truth, and piety.
Green Represents hope, joy, and loyalty in love.
Purple Symbolizes royal majesty, sovereignty, and justice.
Gold/Yellow Represent generosity, elevation of the mind, and steadfastness.
White Symbolizes peace, sincerity, and purity of intentions.
Black Represents constancy, grief, and sometimes humility.

It is important to note that these meanings are not fixed, and combinations of different colors can change their interpretation altogether. For example, red and gold together symbolize nobility, while blue and gold signify royalty.

Understanding the symbolism of colors is essential when interpreting the meaning behind any coat of arms. By analyzing the colors used, one can get a better understanding of the family’s values , status , and accomplishments .

Use of Tinctures in Blazonry

Blazonry is a language used to describe a coat of arms. In this language, tinctures refer to the colors used on a coat of arms. There are two types of tinctures in blazonry: colors and metals. In heraldry, metals can also be referred to as “argent” for silver and “or” for gold.

The use of tinctures in a coat of arms serves to convey meaning and symbolism. It is important that the colors and metals used on a coat of arms are easily distinguishable from each other. There are rules regarding the combination of tinctures, such as the Rule of Tincture, which states that a color should not be placed on another color or a metal on another metal. This is to avoid confusion when identifying a coat of arms.

Here are some commonly used tinctures in blazonry:

Tincture Description
Argent Represents silver or white
Or Represents gold or yellow
Gules Represents red
Azure Represents blue
Vert Represents green
Purpure Represents purple

When these tinctures are combined, they can convey different meanings. For example, a coat of arms with a red background (gules) and a white fleur-de-lis (argent) can represent the French monarchy. Another example is a coat of arms with a blue background, which can represent loyalty and truth.

The use of tinctures in blazonry plays a vital role in conveying meaning and symbolism. Understanding the different tinctures and their combinations is important in interpreting the design of a coat of arms. For more information on the evolution and design of coat of arms, visit our article on coat of arms evolution.

Figures and Their Significance

Figures And Their Significance
In heraldry, the figures or charges on a coat of arms hold a great deal of significance. Each animal, plant, or object has a specific meaning and can represent different attributes or characteristics. For example, the lion symbolizes strength, courage, and royalty, while the eagle embodies intelligence, nobility, and liberty. Trees and plants such as oak, laurel, and wheat also hold their own meanings, with oak representing strength and endurance, laurel representing victory, and wheat symbolizing prosperity. Other figures, such as swords, crowns, and shields, also have their own significance. By combining these elements with different colors, a coat of arms can tell a unique story about a family’s history and values. To see examples of famous families’ coat of arms, check out this link.

Animals and Their Symbolism

Animals have been used as symbols on Coat of Arms since their inception, and each animal represents different traits and qualities that the bearer wishes to display. Some common animals used in heraldry and their symbolism are:

Animal Symbolism
Lion The king of the jungle, representing courage, strength, and royalty. A lion rampant (standing on its hind legs) symbolizes bravery and valor.
Eagle The eagle, with its sharp eyesight and ability to soar high in the sky, represents vision, nobility, and freedom. In some cultures, it also represents courage and strength.
Bear A bear is a symbol of strength, power, and courage. It is also associated with protection and loyalty.
Unicorn The unicorn is a mythical creature that represents purity, grace, and virtue.
Dragon The dragon is a symbol of power, strength, and protection. In some cultures, it also represents wisdom and good luck.
Falcon The falcon is a symbol of speed, vision, and nobility. It also represents the hunt and is often associated with a hunter or a warrior.
Stag A stag represents grace, agility, and freedom. It is also associated with hunting and the outdoors.
Phoenix The phoenix is a mythical bird that represents rebirth, renewal, and immortality.

Coat of Arms often feature more than one animal, and the combination of these animals can add further layers of meaning to the design. A Coat of Arms featuring a lion and a unicorn, for example, could symbolize the unity between opposing forces, such as strength and grace.

It is important to note that the interpretation of animals on a Coat of Arms can vary depending on cultural and historical context. For example, in Chinese culture, the dragon is a symbol of good luck and prosperity, while in Western cultures it is often associated with danger and destruction.

Plants and Trees and Their Meanings

Plants and trees in a coat of arms are often used to symbolize different meanings that range from strength to medieval folklore, and, in some cases, even refer to a location’s agriculture. Here are some of the most commonly used plants and trees, along with their meanings in heraldry:

Plant/Tree Meaning
Oak Tree Strength, endurance, courage, and steadfastness
Rose Bush Beauty, love, and hope
Laurel Victory and glory
Thistle Scots heritage, independence, and defiance
Maple Tree Abundance and generosity
Olive Branch Peace, harmony, and goodwill
Wheat Prosperity and abundance
Cherry Blossom Transience of life, beauty, and mortality
Lotus Flower Spiritual awakening, rebirth, and purity

However, it’s worth noting that the meanings behind different plants and trees can vary based on their cultural significance. For example, the cherry blossom is often associated with Japan and represents love, hope, and happiness. It’s important to consider the context in which a plant or tree is used in a coat of arms to accurately interpret its intended meaning.

Other Figures and Their Interpretation

Other figures that are commonly used in Coat of Arms can also hold significant meaning and symbolism. Here are some examples:

Figure Symbolism
Keys The keys of Saint Peter, one of the most recognizable Christian symbols, represent spiritual authority and the power of the Church.
Anchors An anchor can symbolize hope, steadfastness, and loyalty to a cause. In some cases, it can also represent a career or occupation related to the sea.
Wings Wings often represent the idea of transcendence, such as the ability to rise above difficulties or achieve greatness. They can also symbolize swiftness or agility.
Suns and Moons These celestial bodies can represent enlightenment, guidance, and leadership. The sun is often associated with strength and vitality, while the moon is associated with intuition and mystery.

The use of these figures in Coat of Arms designs is not limited to the examples above. Other figures may also hold personal or regional significance, and it is common for different families or organizations to use similar symbols in different ways. Understanding these other figures and their symbolism can help to unlock the stories and cultural heritage behind Coat of Arms designs.

Combination of Colors and Emblems

The combination of colors and emblems on a coat of arms plays a significant role in its symbolism. Different colors represent various virtues and personality traits, and the addition of emblems further enhances their meanings. For example, the color red denotes courage and bravery, while the eagle emblem represents strength and nobility. Similarly, the fleur-de-lis emblem on a blue background signifies loyalty and purity. The designers of a coat of arms carefully choose the combination of colors and emblems to convey a specific message about the person or family it represents. The intricate details of a coat of arms make it a fascinating art form and a window into the history and culture of the past.

Examples of Coat of Arms and Their Symbolism

Examples of Coat of Arms and Their Symbolism can be found all around the world, each with its particular emblems of family tradition and legacy. Here are some notable examples:

Coat of Arms Emblems Symbolism
House of Windsor Lion, unicorn, shamrock, rose, thistle The lion and unicorn represent Britain, the shamrock and thistle represent Ireland and Scotland, the rose represents England
House of Bourbon Fleur-de-lis, crown The fleur-de-lis represents the French monarchy, while the crown signifies royalty
City of London Dragon, cross, sword, ship, keystone The dragon represents the city’s resilience, the sword and ship represent commerce and defense, the keystone represents the city’s importance in connecting different areas
Republic of South Africa Springbok, protea flower The springbok represents the country’s wildlife, the protea represents the country’s unique flora
Mexico Eagle, serpent, cactus The eagle represents freedom and courage, the serpent represents wisdom, and the cactus represents the country’s harsh environment

These symbols on the Coat of Arms represent an essential meaning and tell a story about the nation, dynasty, or organization they represent. They show the values and characteristics that are significant to the culture of the organization or country. Learning the meaning behind the symbols on Coat of Arms could provide a rich context for understanding the tradition and heritage that accompanies it.

Coat of Arms Design and Its Function

The design of a Coat of Arms serves a significant purpose in representing the values, history, and achievements of an individual, family, or organization. It is a unique symbol that defines their identity and differentiates them from others. The Coat of Arms design comprises various elements, including colors, figures, and motto or slogans that carry their meaning and importance.

The function of a Coat of Arms design is to provide a quick and easy identification of the person, family, or organization. It reflects the values and interests of the bearer and conveys a message to the viewer. The Coat of Arms design can be simple or complex, depending on the importance of the bearer and the purpose of its creation.

The design of a Coat of Arms goes through a process called “blazonry.” This process includes a set of rules and guidelines that ensure the accuracy and consistency of the design. It involves a detailed description of the Coat of Arms, including the figures, colors, and their placement on the shield.

The use of a motto is an essential part of the Coat of Arms design. It can be in Latin or any other language and carries a message or meaning that reflects the values and ideals of the bearer. The motto is placed beneath the shield and can be written on a banner or scroll.

Another critical aspect of the Coat of Arms design is the crest, which is the decorative element placed above the shield. The crest can be a crown, helmet, or any other figure that reflects the values and significance of the bearer.

The Coat of Arms design serves as an essential identification and representation tool for individuals, families, and organizations. Its function is to convey values, ideals, and achievements through various elements, including colors, figures, and motto or slogans. The design process goes through a set of rules and guidelines to ensure accuracy and consistency, and the use of a crest and motto is an integral part of the design.


In conclusion, unraveling the meaning behind the colors and emblems on coat of arms can reveal a wealth of information. From the history of coat of arms to the symbolism of its figures, understanding the significance behind these traditional designs can add a new layer of appreciation. Each coat of arms is unique and contains a story of its own. By exploring the use of colors, figures, and combination of both, a deeper understanding of the meaning behind the design can be discovered. It’s fascinating to see how these traditional designs have been used throughout history, and how they continue to be used in the present day. Whether it’s a coat of arms of a family, a city, or a country, it embodies the identity and values of its bearers. By delving into the meaning behind these designs, we can gain a new appreciation for their significance and the history they represent. Overall, the coat of arms is not just a simple design but a reflection of history, culture, and identity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a coat of arms?

A coat of arms is a unique design representing a specific person, family, company, or country.

When were coats of arms first used?

Coats of arms were first used in Europe during the Middle Ages, around the 12th century.

What do the colors on a coat of arms mean?

Colors on a coat of arms have specific meanings, such as strength (red), wisdom (blue), purity (white), and royalty (purple).

What are tinctures in blazonry?

Tinctures are the specific colors and patterns used in the design of a coat of arms, such as gules (red), argent (silver), and sable (black).

What do animals symbolize on a coat of arms?

Animals on a coat of arms can symbolize various qualities, such as courage (lion), loyalty (dog), and freedom (eagle).

What do plants and trees symbolize on a coat of arms?

Plants and trees on a coat of arms can represent specific virtues, such as the oak tree symbolizing strength and endurance.

What is the purpose of a coat of arms?

A coat of arms was originally used to identify a knight in battle, but later grew to represent families, countries, and organizations.

Can anyone create a coat of arms?

Technically, yes, but a coat of arms must follow the rules and guidelines set by the specific country or organization it represents.

What are some famous coat of arms?

Some famous coat of arms include the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom, the coat of arms of the Vatican City, and the coat of arms of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

What is the significance of the eagle in coat of arms?

The eagle is a common figure in coat of arms and often represents freedom, strength, and courage. It is also associated with the Roman Empire and the United States.


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