Cracking the Code of Shield Shapes in Heraldry

When we see a coat of arms, we may admire the design and colors, but how much do we really know about the symbolism behind its elements? One of the most prominent features of any coat of arms is the shield, which comes in different shapes. But why do shields come in those shapes, and what do they represent? In this article, we will explore the significance of shield shapes in coat of arms, and the various meanings they convey. From the traditional heraldic shapes, such as the heater and the escutcheon, to the more unusual diamond and triangular shields, we’ll reveal the stories and traditions that brought them to life. But shield shapes are just one piece of the puzzle – we’ll also delve into the meanings of other elements that can appear on a coat of arms, such as the colors and charges. And let’s not forget about the use of shields in modern times, both in flags and logos, as well as the symbolisms of shields in different cultural contexts. So strap on your armor and prepare to enter the world of heraldry!

A Brief Overview of Heraldry

Heraldry is the practice of designing, displaying, and describing coats of arms and badges. Coats of arms were originally used by knights and medieval warriors to identify themselves on the battlefield. Over time, they became symbols of family identity, social status, and political power. The tradition of heraldry spread from Western Europe to other parts of the world, and it continues to be practiced to this day.

The key component of a coat of arms is the shield, which is often decorated with various symbols and colors. These symbols are known as charges, and they can represent anything from family history to personal interests. In addition to the shield, a coat of arms may also include other elements such as a crest, supporters, and a motto.

Heraldry has its own set of rules and conventions that govern the design and use of coats of arms. For example, certain colors and symbols have specific meanings, and the arrangement of charges on a shield can convey different messages. Crests, supporters, and other elements also follow their own set of guidelines.

While heraldry was historically associated with noble families and aristocracy, it has become more accessible to the general population over time. Many people now create their own coats of arms as a way to express their identity and heritage. In modern times, heraldry can be seen in various forms of design, including flags, logos, and branding.

Heraldry is a fascinating and complex tradition that has evolved over centuries. By understanding the meanings behind various symbols and designs, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the art and history of coat of arms. For further information on the use of colors in coat of arms design, check out our article on Colors in Coat of Arms Design.

The Meanings Behind Different Shield Shapes

The Meanings Behind Different Shield Shapes

The shape of a shield in a coat of arms can offer insight into the message its designer intended to convey. Here are some of the most common shield shapes and their meanings:

The Heater shield, also known as the “French shield” or the “oval” shield, was popular during the 13th and 14th centuries. Its shape is reminiscent of a teardrop or an almond, with a curved top and a pointed bottom. The Heater shield was often used by knights and was typically associated with chivalry and romance.

The Escutcheon shield is perhaps the most widely recognized shield shape in heraldry. It is a simple, symmetrical shape with straight lines and a slight point at the bottom. The Escutcheon shield is often associated with royalty, as it was traditionally used by members of the royal family.

The Roundel shield is circular in shape and is often used to represent the sun or the moon. It is highly symbolic and is often associated with wisdom, enlightenment, and spiritual guidance. The Roundel shield is also sometimes used to represent eternity or the cyclical nature of life.

The Kite shield is shaped like a diamond, but with a longer top edge and a shorter bottom edge. It was a popular shield shape during the Middle Ages and was associated with bravery and courage. The Kite shield was often used by knights who valued speed and agility in battle.

The Diamond shield is another shield shape that was commonly used in the Middle Ages. It is a symmetrical shape with four equal sides, and is often associated with feminine energy and fertility. The Diamond shield is also sometimes used to represent the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water.

Triangular shields, also known as “pennants,” have three equal sides and a pointed bottom. They were often used in tournaments or jousts and were associated with competition and sport. The Triangular shield can also represent stability and balance.

Understanding the meaning behind different shield shapes can help to decipher the symbolism in a coat of arms. By combining elements such as shield shape, colors, and charges, a coat of arms can tell a story about the family or organization it represents.

If you want to learn more about the symbolism found in a coat of arms, check out our article on coat of arms animal symbolism.


The heater shape is one of the most iconic shield shapes in heraldry. Its distinctive tapering shape with a rounded top was seen as particularly well-suited for cavalry. Often used by knights in tournaments, it offers good protection for the upper body while allowing freedom of movement for the arms and legs. Its symbolism, however, is less clear. Some believe that the wide shoulders suggest strength and protection, while the pointed base may represent the knight’s direction and purpose. Others see it as resembling a shield used in battle and representing the defense of the knight’s honor. Regardless of its specific meaning, the heater shape remains an important and recognizable part of coat of arms design.


refers to the classic shield shape that became a staple in coat of arms designs. The word escutcheon literally means shield in Old French. This shield shape is typically flat at the bottom with a curve at the top.

In heraldry, the escutcheon is the central part of the coat of arms where the charges are displayed. The size, shape, and colors of the escutcheon can vary depending on the specific design and the individual or organization it represents.

There are several variations of the escutcheon shape, such as the cartouche, which is an oval-shaped escutcheon with a decorative border. Another variation is the lozenge-shaped escutcheon which is associated with female individuals due to its diamond shape.

Escutcheons can be divided into sections called “quarters” which can be used to display different symbols or charges. The manner in which an escutcheon is divided into quarters is known as the partition, and a coat of arms may have a specific partition scheme.

In addition to displaying charges, the escutcheon can also incorporate other heraldic elements such as mantling, banners, supporters, and symbols.

The escutcheon is a fundamental element in coat of arms design and can be highly personalized to reflect the values, history, and achievements of the individual or organization it represents.


Roundel: The Roundel is a shield shape that is circular in form. This shape is also referred to as the Rondel or Roundlet. Circular shields were originally used by cavalry soldiers because they were easier to carry and provided more protection during battles. However, the Roundel was also used in coats of arms and carried its own symbolic meaning. The circular shape represents unity and eternity, with no beginning or end. It is often associated with the concept of the “wheel of life,” which symbolizes the continuous cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth.

In heraldry, multiple Roundels can be used to represent a family’s lineage and ancestry. When used in this way, the Roundels are often placed in a specific pattern, such as a triangle or a diamond shape. This repetition of Roundels is called a “Roundel of Roundels” and is a common technique in heraldry design to create a unique and personalized coat of arms.

The Roundel shield shape is also used in modern logos and designs. Its circular form lends itself well to branding and can represent unity, continuity or completion. For example, the Olympic rings use a Roundel design to symbolize the continuity and unity of the Olympic games.

The Roundel is a timeless shield shape that carries rich historical significance. It represents unity, eternity and the cycle of life. Its circular form offers a sense of completion and continuity, making it a popular choice in both heraldry and modern design.


The Kite shield shape is characterized by its narrow top and wide bottom, resembling the shape of a kite. This type of shield was popular in the early days of heraldry and has been used by many prominent figures throughout history, including William the Conqueror. The elongated shape of the Kite shield allowed for more creative and intricate designs, making it a popular choice for those looking to make a bold statement with their coat of arms. Some of the most notable figures to use a Kite shield include the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller. The unique shape of the Kite shield makes it a great choice for those looking to create a distinctive and memorable coat of arms.


The is a lesser-used shield shape in heraldry, but it still carries a significant meaning. The diamond shape is essentially a square that has been turned at a 45-degree angle, forming a lozenge shape. This shape is seen as a symbol of wealth, growth, and change.

In heraldry, a diamond-shaped shield is often used to represent a person with an adventurous spirit or someone who is willing to take risks. The diamond shape is sometimes referred to as a “lozenge” and is associated with femininity. In fact, in some cultures, it is specifically used to denote a female coat of arms.

Interestingly, the diamond shape can be found as an element in other symbols as well, such as diamonds in a typographic crest, or even in heraldic crowns.

One famous example of a diamond-shaped coat of arms is that of the Astor family. Their coat of arms features a red diamond with a white border and a blue star in the center. This diamond represents a precious stone, which symbolizes the family’s wealth and success.

The diamond shape can be combined with other charges and colors to create a unique, personal coat of arms. The diamond shape is a symbol of potential and possibility, and it may appeal to those who value innovation and creativity over tradition and convention in their heraldic designs.


The triangular shield shape in coat of arms is also known as a “pennon”. This shape was popular during the medieval period and typically represented a knight fighting on horseback. The point of the shield would protect the knight’s chest while the bottom remained open.

The triangular shape was also believed to represent the Holy Trinity in Christianity, with each point of the triangle representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This symbolization is particularly present in the heraldry of Catholic countries.

In Hindu culture, the upside-down triangular shape, known as a “shatkona”, represents the union of male and female principles or the divine union of Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati.

It is important to note that while the triangular shape is not as commonly used in modern coat of arms designs, it still holds significant symbolism in different cultures. If you are interested in designing your own coat of arms and incorporating a triangular shield shape, consider consulting with a professional heraldic artist to ensure that your design accurately represents your intended symbolism. To take things a step further, you could even personalize your coat of arms with the help of a company that provides this service, such as Personalization of Crests in Coat of Arms.

What Other Elements in a Coat of Arms Mean

In addition to the symbolism behind shield shapes, the various elements present on a coat of arms also hold significant meaning. These elements can include colors, charges, and other design features.

The Colors
The colors present on a coat of arms, known as “tinctures,” also hold symbolic meaning. The most common tinctures are red, blue, green, black, and purple. Each color has its own significance, such as red representing courage or warrior prowess and blue symbolizing truth or loyalty. The use of gold or yellow is often associated with wealth or generosity, while silver or white can represent peace or purity.

Tinctures are typically used in combination with metals, such as gold or silver. Gold symbolizes valor or glory, while silver represents purity or peace. Additionally, the color black can sometimes be used to represent sorrow or grief.

The Charges
The charges present on a coat of arms refer to the individual images or symbols located on the shield. These charges can range from animals to objects to even entire scenes. Each charge holds its own symbolic meaning, such as lions representing bravery or eagles symbolizing power and strength.

It is not uncommon for charges to be used in combination, creating a complex and layered meaning. For instance, a lion paired with a sword could represent a fierce and skilled warrior.

Other Design Features
In addition to the colors and charges, other design features present on a coat of arms can also hold symbolic meaning. For example, a crown might represent sovereignty or a wreath could symbolize victory.

It is also common for elements like crests and supporters to be present in a coat of arms, adding additional layers of symbolism. A crest might showcase the family’s motto or a specific symbol important to their heritage, while supporters can depict animals or figures that hold importance to the family.

The various elements present on a coat of arms all hold significant symbolic meaning. The colors, charges, and additional design features work in combination to create a unique and layered representation of a family’s history and values.

The Colors

In heraldry, colors play a significant role in conveying symbolism. Each color has its own meaning and is used in combination to express the traits of a particular family, organization, or individual. The most common colors used in heraldry are or (gold), argent (silver), gules (red), azure (blue), vert (green), purpure (purple), and sable (black). Gold symbolizes wealth and generosity, while silver represents peace and sincerity. Red represents courage and strength, blue depicts loyalty and truth, green symbolizes hope and joy, purple represents royalty and sovereignty, and black represents strength and constancy. The combination of colors in a coat of arms can also have additional meanings, such as red and gold symbolizing valor and wealth.

The Charges

The charges in a coat of arms refer to the symbols or designs that are placed on the shield. These elements help to convey the message or identity of the wearer. Here are some common charges and what they represent:

Charge Meaning
Lion The lion is a symbol of courage and strength. It is often used to represent nobility and royalty.
Eagle The eagle is a symbol of freedom and power. It is often used to represent a person who is courageous and strong-willed.
Unicorn The unicorn is a symbol of purity and grace. It is often used to represent a person who is brave and true of heart.
Ship The ship is a symbol of travel and adventure. It can also represent a person’s career or their aspirations in life.
Cross The cross is a symbol of faith and devotion. It represents a person’s beliefs and values.
Star The star is a symbol of guidance and direction. It represents a person who is a leader and has a strong sense of purpose.

These are just a few examples of the many charges that can be used in a coat of arms. Each charge has its own unique symbolism and history, and they can be combined in various ways to create a personalized design that reflects the wearer’s identity and values.

Shield Shapes in Modern Times

Shield Shapes In Modern Times

The use of shields in heraldry has continued into modern times. While coat of arms are still used, shields have also become a popular symbol in flags and logos. Flags of different countries feature shields prominently. For example, the flag of Malta has a red shield with a white cross in the upper left-hand corner. The flag of Honduras features five blue stars arranged in an X shape with a white and blue striped shield in the center. Shields are also used in corporate logos to convey strength, protection, and security. The logo for the automobile company BMW features a blue and white shield with a propeller inside to signify the company’s history as a manufacturer of airplane engines.

In addition to their use in flags and logos, shield shapes have also influenced modern architecture. Buildings with a shield shape have become popular in recent years, both for their aesthetic value and their association with strength and security. For example, the Shield House in Sweden has a unique shield-shaped roof that blends in with its surroundings while also making a bold architectural statement.

The use of shield shapes in modern times reflects their enduring symbolism as a symbol of protection and strength. Whether in heraldry, flags, logos, or architecture, the use of shield shapes continues to be a powerful way to convey important messages about security, power, and protection.

Use in Flags and Logos

The use of shield shapes in flags and logos has also become popular in modern times. Many countries incorporate a shield shape into their national flags, often containing symbols that represent the history and culture of the country. For example, the flag of Spain features a red and yellow shield shape with a crown on top, symbolizing the country’s monarchy.

Similarly, shields are often used in logos to represent strength, protection, and security. For example, the logo of the automotive company BMW features a blue and white shield shape, symbolizing the company’s dedication to quality and security.

Below are some examples of shield shapes in flags and logos:

Flag/L logo Shields Shapes Used
Spain Heater
Great Britain Escutcheon
Switzerland Kite
BMW Heater
US Department of Homeland Security Escutcheon

The use of shield shapes in flags and logos has become a popular way to convey strength and security. The symbols and colors used within the shield often represent the history and culture of the country or organization.

Symbolism Across Cultures

The use of shields in coat of arms symbolism is not limited to European heraldry. Indeed, many cultures across the globe have their own unique take on this tradition. Let’s explore some of the fascinating ways shield shapes have been utilized in different cultural contexts.

Region/Culture Shield Symbolism
Japan The Japanese have a long history of using 紋 (mon), or family crests, which often include a shield shape. These crests are used on clothing and household items and were historically used to signify one’s social rank and clan membership.
Africa Many African cultures have shields that are used in traditional ceremonies and as a sign of strength and protection. These shields often feature intricate designs and symbolic colors that represent different tribes or families.
Mexico Aztec and Mayan shields often featured images of gods and mythological creatures, such as the serpent or eagle. These images represented strength and power and were thought to provide protection in battle.
Native American Native American tribes often used shields in battle as well as in ceremonies. These shields were often made from animal hides and featured symbols of the tribe’s spiritual beliefs, such as the sun, moon, and stars.

As we can see, shield symbolism is truly a universal concept that transcends national borders and cultural backgrounds. The shield shape has been used in countless ways throughout history, each time with its own unique meaning and purpose. It is a powerful symbol that continues to inspire us today.

The Use of Shields in Different Cultural Contexts

Shields have been used in a variety of cultures throughout history, and the symbolism behind them can vary greatly depending on the cultural context. Here are some examples:

Culture Shield Symbolism
Aztec Shields were an integral part of Aztec warfare, and were often decorated with images of eagles, jaguars, or other animals associated with bravery and strength. The Aztecs believed that the shield was the first line of defense in battle, and also used them in religious ceremonies as a symbol of protection.
Japanese The Japanese samurai used shields known as tate during battle, which were typically made of wood and covered in leather or iron. The tate were often decorated with the clan emblem, or mon, which was a symbol of the warrior’s loyalty and identity. The shape of the tate was also important, with round shields known as daito being used in one-on-one combat, and rectangular shields known as tachi being used in battles involving large groups.
Scottish The Scottish clans used shields as a symbol of their family identity, with different designs and colors representing different clans. The shield was also often accompanied by a motto or slogan, known as a clan crest or badge, which represented a particular clan’s values and beliefs. The shields were often made of wood and covered in animal skin, and were used in both warfare and ceremonial events.
Medieval European Shields were an important part of medieval European warfare, and were often decorated with images of lions, eagles, or other animals associated with strength and courage. The shield was also often divided into different sections, known as quarters, which represented different regions or allegiances. In addition to their use in battle, shields were also used in tournaments and jousting events as a symbol of chivalry and honor.

These are just a few examples of the various ways in which shields have been used in different cultural contexts throughout history. Whether used in battle, in ceremonies, or as a symbol of family identity, the shield has remained an enduring symbol of strength, courage, and protection.


In conclusion, understanding the symbolism of shield shapes in coat of arms is an important aspect of heraldry. It allows us to decipher the hidden meanings behind each element of a coat of arms and the message that it conveys. From the traditional heater shape to the modern use of shields in flags and logos, shield shapes have played a significant role in human history and continue to be relevant today.

The meanings behind each shield shape are unique and can vary depending on the context and culture. While the heater shape represents chivalry and protection, the kite shape represents speed and agility. Similarly, the triangular shape symbolizes power and stability, while the diamond shape connotes wealth and prosperity.

However, the shield shape is just one aspect of a coat of arms. The colors and charges also carry important symbolism that add depth and meaning to the coat of arms as a whole. The colors can represent virtues such as loyalty, courage, and justice, while the charges depict various elements, from animals to religious symbols, that convey specific messages.

While the use of shields in coat of arms has a long history, it still continues to be relevant in modern times, particularly in the design of flags and logos. The shield shape is a popular design element in flags and is often used to represent different aspects of a country or organization. Similarly, it is also a common design element in logos, where it represents strength, protection, and stability.

Finally, the symbolism of shield shapes is not limited to western heraldry. Many cultures throughout history have also used shields as symbols of strength, protection, and identity. From the ancient Greeks to the Native American tribes, shields have played a significant role in different cultural contexts.

In conclusion, the symbolism of shield shapes in coat of arms is a fascinating and complex subject that adds depth and meaning to heraldry. Whether we are admiring the intricate designs of medieval coats of arms or the simple yet powerful shields in modern flags and logos, the use of shield shapes will continue to be a relevant and enduring symbol of human history and culture.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is heraldry?

Heraldry is the art and science of designing, displaying, describing, and recording coats of arms and badges.

What is a coat of arms?

A coat of arms is a design or emblem on a shield that represents a person, family, or organization.

What is the purpose of a coat of arms?

The purpose of a coat of arms is to identify and distinguish individuals or groups of people. It is often used to display heritage, achievements, and values.

What are the different shield shapes in coat of arms?

The different shield shapes in coat of arms include heater, escutcheon, roundel, kite, diamond, and triangular.

What does the heater shield symbolize?

The heater shield symbolizes defense and protection. It is an elongated shield shape that resembles the shape of a bell.

What does the escutcheon shield symbolize?

The escutcheon shield symbolizes royalty and nobility. It is a shield shape with a flat top and rounded bottom.

What does the roundel shield symbolize?

The roundel shield symbolizes eternity and unity. It is a circular shield shape.

What does the kite shield symbolize?

The kite shield symbolizes agility and speed. It is a shield shape with a pointed bottom.

What does the diamond shield symbolize?

The diamond shield symbolizes adventure and growth. It is a shield shape with a diamond or lozenge shape.

What does the triangular shield symbolize?

The triangular shield symbolizes the Holy Trinity or Trinity in general. It is a shield shape with a triangular or pointed shape.


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