An In-Depth Look at the Symbolism of Colors in Heraldry

Heraldry, the study and art of designing, displaying, and describing coats of arms, dates back to the Middle Ages. Colors played a significant role in heraldry, as they were used to indicate the various attributes, qualities, and virtues of individuals and institutions who bore coats of arms. However, the meanings of these colors varied across cultures and even regions, leading to a fascinating array of symbols and combinations. In this article, we delve into the symbolism of colors in heraldry, exploring the meanings behind red, blue, green, purple, yellow, black, white, gold, and silver. We’ll also examine how these colors are combined and how regional traditions and national symbols influence their use. So, let’s raise the banner and take a closer look at the rainbow of heraldic colors.

The Meanings of Colors in Heraldry

The Meanings Of Colors In Heraldry
In heraldry, colors hold deep symbolic meaning. Understanding the significance of each color is essential in interpreting and designing coat of arms. Red signifies strength, courage, and bravery, while blue represents truth, loyalty, and wisdom. Green symbolizes hope, loyalty and victory, while purple suggests royalty, majesty, and sovereignty. Yellow represents honor, loyalty and generosity, whereas black signifies mystery, grief, and humility. White is associated with purity, innocence, and peace, while gold and silver represent wealth, prosperity, and virtue. Each color can have its own specific interpretation within the context of a coat of arms. For more information on the significance of tinctures in Heraldry, visit our website.


Red is one of the most popular colors used in heraldry, symbolizing everything from bravery and strength to magnanimity and martyrdom. In fact, red is the most common color found in coat of arms, making it an important color to understand.

Below is a table explaining the various meanings associated with the color red in heraldry:

Symbolism Description
Blood and Sacrifice Red is often associated with the blood of martyrs, making it a powerful symbol of sacrifice and devotion.
Bravery and Strength Red is also often used to represent bravery and strength, as it is a bold and powerful color that commands attention.
Passion and Love Red is the color of passion and love, and is often used to symbolize these emotions in heraldry.
Sin and Temptation Red can also be associated with sin and temptation, particularly in Christian heraldry, where it is often used to represent Satan and his temptations.

It’s worth noting that the specific meanings of red in heraldry can vary depending on the country or region. For example, in England, red is often used to represent military strength, while in Spain, it is associated with nobility.

Understanding the symbolism of red in heraldry is essential for anyone studying this ancient art form. By understanding the different meanings associated with this rich and vibrant color, you can begin to unlock the stories and traditions that lie behind the many coat of arms that use it.


Blue is one of the primary colors in heraldry, representing loyalty, truth, and strength. It is a popular color used in the coat of arms of institutions, corporations, and countries.

Here are some common meanings associated with the use of blue in heraldry:

Symbolism Description
Loyalty Blue symbolizes a steadfast commitment to one’s principles, qualities that are associated with loyalty, and fidelity. It denotes an individual’s firm support for another person, an ideal, or a ruler.
Reliability Blue is also indicative of trustworthiness, stability, and dependability. It symbolizes an individual’s unwavering dedication to a pursuit or goal.
Integrity Blue is a color of honesty, sincerity, and straightforwardness. It is believed that individuals who wear this color have impeccable values and standards.
Strength Blue is also associated with strength, courage, and victory. It embodies traits of determination and firmness, often denoting heroes or soldiers.

It is interesting to note that blue is a versatile color, and its meaning can vary depending on the shade or hue used. Dark blue hues typically represent seriousness, while lighter shades are more lighthearted. When paired with other colors, it can further enhance the symbolism and meaning of the coat of arms. For example, combining blue with gold is a popular choice, conveying a sense of nobility and prestige.

If you want to learn more about the meanings behind different divisions used in coat of arms, check out our article on Meaning Behind the Coat of Arms Divisions.


is a versatile color in heraldry, symbolizing hope, joy, love, and loyalty. It reflects the lush landscapes of the land in which the owner of the coat of arms resides. Often, the green field represents the countryside, and the charges in the foreground represent the owner’s profession or interests. In some cases, the green field has been used to highlight the owner’s Irish heritage. One example of this use of green in heraldry can be found in the coat of arms of Ireland. The Irish harp, which is the national emblem, sits on a green field. The green hue represents the lush countryside of Ireland and the traditional color worn by the country’s patron saint, St. Patrick.

Other heraldic symbols that are colored green include oak trees, wreaths, and triangle-shaped shields known as pavises. Oak trees, strong and long-lived, symbolized strength, and wreaths symbolized victory and achievement. Pavises, which were used by archers to shield themselves from enemy arrows, were often used by mercenary companies as a symbol of security and loyalty. These symbols, when colored green, show the pride of the owner in their strength, accomplishments, and loyalty.

It is important to note that the shade of green used in heraldry has significance. Darker shades of green represent tradition and harmony, while lighter shades of green represent growth and life. The use of different shades of green in combination with other symbols provides greater depth to the meaning behind the coat of arms.

Overall, green is a color of great significance in heraldry and can point to the pride that the owner has in their profession, interests, and heritage. Its versatility allows it to be used in many different scenarios and to highlight different aspects of the owner’s personality.


Purple has always been considered a royal color that represents wealth, power, and nobility. It is also known as a religious color that symbolizes penance, faith, and spiritual wisdom.

In heraldry, purple is known as Purpure and is represented by vertical lines or partitions divided into halves. The color is considered to be very rare and has a certain degree of exclusivity. It is often used to represent a noble person or a character who is the embodiment of regal qualities.

Purple is sometimes used to represent sorrow or mourning, and it is often used in conjunction with other colors to enhance their symbolic meaning. For example, combining purple with gold or silver can create a sense of luxury, while combining purple with red or black can create a sense of mourning or repentance.

The use of purple in heraldry is closely tied to the history of the dye industry. Purple dye was first created by the Phoenicians in ancient times. They extracted the dye from a particular type of shellfish found in the Mediterranean Sea, and the process was so labor-intensive that only the wealthiest people could afford to wear clothing dyed in purple.

In modern times, purple is still used to represent luxury and exclusivity. It is often used in branding and marketing to create a sense of sophistication and prestige.

Fun Fact: The use of purple in heraldry is thought to have inspired the popular saying, “Born to the purple,” which means someone who is born into a royal or aristocratic family.

If you want to learn more about other heraldic terms and their meanings, follow this link to our heraldic terms guide.


Yellow is a bright and warm color that represents wisdom, glory, and generosity. It is often associated with the sun and can symbolize its life-giving properties. In heraldry, yellow is referred to as “Or” and is typically represented with gold or yellow. It is considered a precious metal that represents faith, constancy, and justice.

Yellow is often used in combination with other colors to create striking color schemes and standout designs. When mixed with black, yellow can create a powerful and aggressive statement, while when combined with blue, it can represent loyalty and friendship.

Here are some common meanings associated with yellow in heraldry:

Symbol Meaning
Gold High rank, faith, constancy
Yellow Rose Friendship and joy
Yellow Cross Self-sacrifice, penitence, and humility

Yellow is also commonly used as a background color in heraldic achievements and charges. For example, a yellow shield can represent constancy and unchanging loyalty, while a yellow lion symbolizes courage, strength, and royalty.

Yellow may not be as widely used in heraldry as some of the other colors, but it does have significant meaning and symbolism behind it. Its association with the sun and precious metals give it a sense of warmth, wealth, and power. If you’d like to learn more about other important heraldic elements, check out our articles on coat of arms charges and heraldic achievements. It’s also essential to understand the significance of heraldic mantling.


The color black is often associated with death and mourning, and in heraldry, it carries similar connotations. However, it can also symbolize wisdom and knowledge, as well as constancy and determination.

In addition to its symbolic meanings, black is also significant in heraldry for its use as a background color. When used in combination with other colors, it can create a striking contrast that makes the other colors stand out more prominently.

One common use of black in heraldry is in the form of sable fur, which is black with a silky sheen. Sable is often used to represent constancy and prudence.

Here is a breakdown of some of the meanings and uses of black in heraldry:

Symbolic Meaning:

  • Mourning/Death
  • Wisdom/Knowledge
  • Constancy/Determination

Use as a background color:

  • Creates contrast with other colors

Use in sable fur:

  • Represents constancy and prudence

While black in heraldry may be associated with negative connotations of death and mourning, its use can also bring depth and contrast to a coat of arms.


In heraldry, white is a symbol of purity, innocence, and peace. It is also referred to as argent or silver, since it has a metallic appearance.

Here are some notable symbols that use white in heraldry:

  • The dove: In Christianity, the dove represents the Holy Spirit and is often shown as a white bird with outspread wings.
  • The unicorn: In heraldry, a white unicorn represents purity, virtue, and strength.
  • The swan: A white swan is a symbol of grace and beauty in heraldry.
  • The lily: In Christianity, the white lily is a symbol of the Virgin Mary’s purity and innocence.
  • The fleur-de-lis: A white or silver fleur-de-lis represents purity, light, and perfection.
  • The ermine: In heraldry, ermine is a symbol of purity and is often depicted as a white fur.

Overall, white is a color that represents purity and innocence, and is often used in heraldry to symbolize these qualities.

Gold and Silver

Gold and silver is a popular combination in heraldry. These colors are known as metal tinctures and are often used to represent qualities of wealth, virtue, and prestige.

In heraldry, gold is represented by the color yellow. It is associated with the sun, and symbolizes wisdom, glory, and constancy. Silver, on the other hand, is associated with the moon, and is a symbol of purity, clarity, and sincerity.

The combination of gold and silver is often seen in coats of arms, where it is used to represent the highest ideals of human society. The coat of arms of Spain is one famous example of a gold and silver combination. It features a red shield with yellow pomegranates, surrounded by gold chains on a silver background.

Another example is the coat of arms of Malta, which features a white cross on a red field with a gold border on a silver background. This combination represents the island nation’s strong ties to both the Christian Church and its historical connection to the Knights of Malta, who were known for their wealth and nobility.

Gold and silver can also be combined with other colors to create a powerful effect. For example, the coat of arms of Russia features a double-headed eagle holding a gold scepter and a silver orb. The eagle is placed on a red background, which represents bravery and courage, while the gold and silver elements add a sense of majesty and nobility.

Gold and silver are important symbols in heraldry that represent wealth, virtue, and prestige. Their use in combination with other colors can create a powerful effect that represents the highest ideals of human society.

Combinations of Colors in Heraldry

Combinations of colors in heraldry are often used to convey complex meanings. Primary colors, such as red, blue and yellow, have been traditionally associated with virtues such as courage, loyalty and piety. On the other hand, secondary colors, like green, purple, and orange, are often used to represent specific concepts such as hope, sovereignty or endurance. Similarly, metal tinctures, such as gold and silver, are used to indicate wealth, honor, and virtue. In addition to these colors, fur patterns are also used in heraldry, including ermine, ermines, erminois, pean, and vair. Each combination of colors and fur patterns has a unique, symbolic meaning that can be interpreted differently in various parts of the world, depending on regional traditions and cultural symbols.

Primary Colors: Red, Blue, and Yellow

In heraldry, the primary colors of red, blue, and yellow have their own unique meanings and symbolism. Here’s a breakdown of what they represent:

Color Meaning
Red Symbolizes courage, bravery, and strength. It can also represent military prowess or a willingness to sacrifice for one’s country.
Blue Represents loyalty, truth, and wisdom. It’s often used in coats of arms for those who are steadfast and dependable.
Yellow Signifies generosity, elevation of the mind, and steadfastness. It’s also associated with the sun and can represent brilliance or enlightenment.

As you can see, each of these primary colors carries its own set of connotations and can be used to convey specific traits or values. It’s worth noting that these meanings can vary depending on the context and cultural background of the individual or organization using the colors.

It’s important to understand how combinations of these primary colors can create entirely new shades that also hold symbolic significance in heraldry. For example, green (created by combining blue and yellow) can represent hope, joy, and loyalty in love, while purple (created by combining red and blue) can represent royalty or sovereignty.

Secondary Colors: Green, Purple, and Orange

Secondary colors are created by mixing primary colors. In heraldry, there are three secondary colors: Green, Purple, and Orange. Each of these colors has its own symbolism and meanings.

Green is often associated with nature, growth, and fertility. It is considered a color of life and hope. In heraldry, green is often used to represent love and loyalty in relationships.

Purple is a symbol of royalty, majesty, and power. It is often associated with leadership and authority. In heraldry, purple, or more specifically, the unique purple hue known as purpure, is often used to denote a person of royal blood.

Orange, a combination of red and yellow, has a range of meanings. It is often associated with warmth, energy and enthusiasm. In heraldry, orange is used less frequently than other colors, but it has been used to represent the quality of ambition or perseverance.

The combination of these secondary colors has its own symbolic meanings. Green and purple together represent spring and renewal, while orange and purple together represent the warmth and heat of summer. The combination of green and orange evokes autumn’s golden days. Each Secondary color has a unique meaning, but when combined, they can create a beautiful blend of symbolism.

Here is a table summarizing the meanings of Secondary Colors in Heraldry:

Color Symbolism and Meanings
Green Nature, growth, fertility, love, and loyalty.
Purple Royalty, majesty, power, and leadership.
Orange Warmth, energy, enthusiasm, ambition, and perseverance.

Each heraldic color has its own unique and important meaning, and it’s important to pay attention to these details when creating or interpreting a coat of arms. By understanding the symbolism of Secondary Colors in Heraldry, we can appreciate the beauty and significance of these timeless art forms.

Metal Tinctures: Gold and Silver

Gold and Silver are referred to as metal tinctures in heraldry. Gold represents the sun’s rays and is associated with wealth, prosperity, and success. This color is also believed to symbolize the divine power that is associated with royalty and majesty. Gold is often used as a symbol for generosity, wisdom, and eternity, and it is paired with a multitude of other colors to create a unique meaning in heraldry.

Similarly, silver represents the moon’s beams, and it is connected to purity, clarity, and innocence. This color is also associated with harmony, peace, and sincerity. Silver is frequently seen as a representation of the moon, which signifies feminine strength and is revered as a goddess in many cultures. It is paired with other colors to communicate concepts such as respect, dignity, and humility.

Gold and silver are often used in conjunction with primary colors and secondary colors in heraldry. The combination of gold and red represent royalty, as seen in the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Spain. The mix of silver and blue is associated with serenity and tranquility, as seen in the coat of arms of Norway.

In combination with other metals, gold and silver are used to create various patterns, such as chequy or vairy designs that imitate the look of a checkerboard or fur coat. Gold and silver are also used as a background in many heraldic designs and are known as or and argent, respectively. They serve as a neutral backdrop to the other featured colors and symbols.

The metal tinctures of gold and silver hold immense symbolism in heraldry. These colors are often paired with other hues to convey a combination of meanings that range from wealth to humility, respect to harmony. Whether used as a background or a featured color, gold and silver add depth and richness to the meaning and visual impact of a heraldic design.

Furs: Ermine, Ermines, Erminois, Pean, and Vair

In heraldry, furs are represented by a pattern of contrasting colors used in the field of the shield or in the crest. One such fur is the ermine, which is represented by a field of white with black spots, resembling the fur of the stoat. Ermine is considered a noble fur and is often used in the coats of arms of nobility.

Another variation of ermine is ermines, which consists of a black field with white spots, ideal for bright backgrounds. Erminois, on the other hand, consists of a gold field with black spots, which is sometimes used to represent autumn landscapes.

Pean is another fur used in heraldry that consists of a black field with golden spots arranged in diagonal rows, inspired by the fur of the European pine marten. The pean is often used to represent a brave and courageous person.

Finally, Vair is a pattern that represents a field of blue and white bell shapes with alternating positions. This fur was inspired by the coat of fur from a squirrel and is often used to represent sagacity or contemplation in a coat of arms.

Furs are often combined with other colors to create visually appealing and meaningful symbols in heraldry. Some common combinations include ermine with blue, yellow, or red, while Vair can be combined with gold or black to create a striking symbol.

Furs have long been an important element in heraldry, representing everything from boldness and courage to wisdom and intelligence. By incorporating these symbols into their coats of arms, people can capture not only their own personal characteristics but also the wider symbolism of the fur itself.

The Influence of Regional Traditions and National Symbols

Regional traditions and national symbols have a significant impact on the use of colors in heraldry. For example, in Europe, red is often associated with courage and sacrifice, while blue symbolizes loyalty and wisdom. Green is often associated with hope and fertility, and white represents purity and innocence. On the other hand, in Asia, yellow is considered the color of royalty and prosperity, and black represents wisdom and knowledge. In Africa, black is associated with maturity and masculinity, and red represents bloodshed and death. In North and South America, red is often associated with valor and bravery, while blue symbolizes loyalty and perseverance. It is important to understand the cultural significance of colors in various regions to accurately interpret and understand the symbolism in heraldry.


Europe has a long and diverse tradition of heraldry, with each country and region developing its own unique style and symbolism. In general, red is associated with military strength and power, while blue represents loyalty, truth, and wisdom. Green symbolizes hope, youth, and abundance, while purple is associated with sovereignty, majesty, and wisdom. Yellow represents generosity, and its brightness symbolizes glory and honor.

In Germany, heraldry developed in the Holy Roman Empire, with each state and city having its own coat of arms. Red and white were common colors, symbolizing the empire and nobility. In France, heraldry was centered around the fleur-de-lis, which represented the French monarchy. Blue and gold were popular colors, symbolizing royalty and wealth.

In England, heraldry evolved from the medieval tradition of knightly coats of arms. Red and white were common colors, symbolizing the House of Lancaster and the House of York in the Wars of the Roses. The Tudor dynasty introduced green and white into heraldry, while the Stuarts favored blue and gold.

In Italy, heraldry was influenced by the Renaissance, with intricate and ornate designs featuring animals, mythical creatures, and religious symbols. Red, white, and green are the colors of the Italian flag, and they are often used in Italian heraldry.

In Spain, heraldry was closely associated with the Catholic Church, and symbols such as the cross and the eagle were common. Red and gold were popular colors, symbolizing the power of Spain’s monarchy and the wealth of its empire.

The symbolism of colors in heraldry in Europe is rich and diverse, reflecting the unique history and culture of each country and region.


Asia is a vast continent, and heraldry in each of its countries has its own traditions and rules. Below are some examples of colors and their symbolism in heraldry from various Asian countries:

Country Color Symbolism
China Red represents happiness, prosperity, and good fortune
Japan White represents purity and honesty
India Orange represents sacrifice and renunciation
Indonesia Red and White Red represents courage, while white represents purity and peace
Iran Green represents fertility, growth, and happiness
Saudi Arabia Green represents Islam and the country’s traditional values

As we can see, colors such as red, white, and green are quite common in Asian heraldry. It is important to note that countries such as China and Japan have a long history of using symbols and colors in their culture, and this has influenced their heraldry as well. Many Asian countries also have strong ties to religion, which can be seen in their use of certain colors and symbols.

Asia’s diverse cultures and traditions make their heraldry a fascinating and unique subject to explore.


In African heraldry, colors often have different meanings than in European heraldry. Here are some examples:

Color Meaning
Red Represents blood, and often symbolizes death and danger. It can also symbolize bravery and strength.
White Symbolizes purity and peace. In some parts of Africa, it can also represent death and mourning.
Yellow Represents wealth and fertility.
Green Represents plants and the environment. It can also symbolize Islam, which is the dominant religion in many parts of Africa.
Black Represents the people of Africa, as well as strength, solidarity, and death.
Gold Represents wealth and prosperity.

African heraldry often incorporates animals and other creatures as symbols. For example, the elephant is a common symbol in West African heraldry, and represents strength and stability. The lion, which is native to many parts of Africa, is also a common symbol and represents bravery and royalty.

It’s important to note that African heraldry is a complex and diverse field, with many different traditions and variations depending on the region and culture. As such, the meanings of colors and symbols can vary widely between different African countries and even within the same country.

North and South America

In North and South America, there is a rich history of heraldic symbolism that reflects the cultural diversity of the region. The colors and symbols used in Canadian heraldry, for example, are heavily influenced by British and French traditions, while the symbols in American heraldry reflect the country’s colonial history and its diverse population.

United States: The coat of arms of the United States is dominated by the colors blue, white, and red, which represent the country’s flag. The eagle, which is a national symbol of the United States, is also a prominent symbol in American heraldry. Other symbols that appear in American heraldry include stars, stripes, and arrows.

Mexico: The coat of arms of Mexico features a golden eagle perched on a cactus with a serpent in its beak. The colors in the coat of arms are green, white, and red, which are the colors of the Mexican flag. The eagle and serpent are both important symbols in Aztec mythology and represent the struggles of the Mexican people.

Canada: The coat of arms of Canada features a red shield with three gold maple leaves, which represent the country’s natural resources. The colors red and white are also prominent in Canadian heraldry, as they are the colors of the Canadian flag.

Brazil: The coat of arms of Brazil is dominated by the colors green and gold, which represent the country’s lush vegetation and wealth. The central emblem features a Southern Cross, which is a prominent constellation in the southern hemisphere, and a blue globe with stars that represent the Brazilian states.

Peru: The coat of arms of Peru features a vicuña, which is a South American relative of the camel, along with branches of laurel and palm. The colors in the coat of arms are red and white, which are also the colors of the Peruvian flag. The vicuña represents the wildlife of Peru, while the branches of laurel and palm symbolize honor and peace, respectively.

The heraldic symbolism of North and South America reflects the rich cultural history of the region and the diversity of its people. Each country has its own distinct symbols and colors, which tell unique stories about the identity and values of its people.


In conclusion, heraldry uses colors and symbols to communicate a message about the identity and values of a person, family, or organization. The meanings of colors in heraldry are deeply rooted in tradition and can vary across different regions and cultures.

Red often represents courage, strength, and passion, while blue symbolizes loyalty, wisdom, and truth. Green is associated with growth, hope, and fertility, while purple signifies royalty, power, and wealth. Yellow is often associated with the sun, joy, and prosperity, while black represents mourning and humility. White symbolizes purity, innocence, and peace. Gold and silver are considered precious metals and represent wealth, honor, and excellence.

The combinations of colors in heraldry are also significant. The primary colors of red, blue, and yellow are used to create secondary colors like green, purple, and orange. Metal tinctures like gold and silver are often used in combination with other colors to add a sense of richness and elegance. Furs, such as ermine and vair, are also used to create texture and depth in heraldic designs.

Regional traditions and national symbols also play a role in heraldry. In Europe, for example, certain colors and symbols are associated with specific regions or countries, like Scotland’s use of the thistle symbol and blue and white colors in their coat of arms. In Asia, dragons and other mythical creatures are often featured in heraldic designs. In Africa, animal symbols like lions and elephants are often used, while North and South America have their own unique heraldic traditions.

Overall, the symbolism of colors in heraldry is complex and nuanced, and varies across different cultures and traditions. By understanding the meanings behind these symbols, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the rich history and cultural significance of heraldry.

Meaning of Colors in Heraldry Examples
Red St. George’s Cross in the English flag
Blue The French Tricolore flag
Green The Irish flag
Purple The coat of arms of the Holy Roman Empire
Yellow The flag of Spain
Black The coat of arms of Pope John Paul II
White The flag of Switzerland
Gold and Silver The coat of arms of Venice, Italy

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Heraldry?

Heraldry is the practice of designing, displaying, describing, and recording coats of arms and related emblems.

What is the meaning of Red in Heraldry?

Red represents courage, strength, and military fortitude.

What is the meaning of Blue in Heraldry?

Blue represents loyalty, truth, and wisdom.

What is the meaning of Green in Heraldry?

Green represents hope, joy, and loyalty in love.

What is the meaning of Purple in Heraldry?

Purple represents sovereignty, justice, and regal majesty.

What is the meaning of Yellow in Heraldry?

Yellow represents honor, loyalty, and generosity.

What is the meaning of Black in Heraldry?

Black represents constancy, grief, and determination.

What is the meaning of White in Heraldry?

White represents peace, purity, and innocence.

What is the meaning of Gold and Silver in Heraldry?

Gold represents generosity and elevation of the mind, while silver represents peace and sincerity.

What are Furs in Heraldry?

Furs are tinctures represented by patterns of ermine, ermines, erminois, pean, and vair.


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