Understanding Coat of Arms Symbols: Unveiling Their Meanings

The Coat of Arms has been an important feature of heraldry and family identity for centuries. The symbols depicted on a coat of arms hold a deep meaning, often representing the family’s history, values, and aspirations. But what do these symbols mean? Why do they matter? And how can you design your own coat of arms that accurately represents and celebrates your family legacy? In this article, we will explore the history of the coat of arms, the symbolism behind its most common elements, and provide examples of famous coats of arms. We will also offer a step-by-step guide on how to design your own coat of arms that reflects your family’s heritage and unique characteristics.

History of Coat of Arms

History Of Coat Of Arms
Coat of Arms have been used for centuries as a way to identify noble families, knights, and warriors. The origins of Coat of Arms can be traced back to medieval Europe when knights would adorn themselves with unique designs on their shields and armor for identification purposes during battles. Symbolism was an important aspect of these designs, as they aimed to convey certain personality traits, characteristics, and achievements of the wearer. In the Early Days, symbols such as lions, dragons, and eagles were popular, while later on, plants, colors, and shapes also became common. Coat of Arms evolved over time, with different countries and regions developing their own unique styles and designs. Nowadays, Coat of Arms are still used in official capacities, such as in government documents or for heraldic purposes.

Origins of Coat of Arms

The origins of coat of arms dates back to the medieval period when knights wore armor head to toe in battles. It was difficult to recognize the person under the armor, so they started painting symbols on their shields. By the 13th century, knights were using emblems to signify their identity. They started using pictures, symbols, and colors on their shields, helmets, and armor that associated with their families, rank, and achievements. It became a necessary part of a knight’s attire and marked as a sense of pride. Later on, as the concept of hereditary symbols developed, coat of arms became more systematic, and the use of colors became much more important for identification. Despite changing times, the concept of coat of arms has survived to this day, and we can still observe it in various forms and designs.

Symbolism in the Early Days

In the early days of coat of arms design, symbolism played a crucial role. The symbols incorporated in the coat of arms were meant to convey a message, a story, or a value cherished by the person or family that bore the coat of arms. In fact, during the Middle Ages, the ability to read and understand the symbolism of a coat of arms was considered a mark of a cultured and educated person.

One of the most common symbols used in coat of arms design was the animal symbol. Animals such as lions, eagles, and bears were used not only as a representation of the virtues that these animals possessed but also because of the spiritual and religious beliefs that were tied to them. For example, a lion was a symbol of courage and strength, whereas a dove was a symbol of peace and divine grace.

Another important symbol that was frequently used in coat of arms design was color. Each color had a specific meaning. Red symbolized courage, bravery, and valor. Blue was associated with loyalty, faithfulness, and sincerity. Purple was a symbol of royalty and wealth. Green represented hope, youth, and vigor.

Shapes and designs were also used to convey a message in coat of arms design. For example, the shield shape was a crucial part of the coat of arms, and it was also used to convey a specific meaning. The shape of the shield could indicate the rank of the person or family that bore the coat of arms, as well as their family heritage and history.

The symbolism used in coat of arms design was deeply rooted in cultural, religious, and spiritual beliefs and values. Each symbol had its own unique meaning, and when combined, they told a story or conveyed a message. Coat of arms design was a complex art, and understanding the symbolism behind it was key to its creation and interpretation.

Evolution of Coat of Arms

The evolution of Coat of Arms spans several centuries, from its early origins in the medieval era to its modern-day usage. Here are some of the key developments in coat of arms design:

1. Emergence of Heraldry: The concept of heraldry began in the 12th century, as knights began to adorn their shields with symbols that represented their identity and achievements.
2. Adoption of Mottoes: Heraldic mottoes emerged in the 14th century, often in Latin, to convey a message of chivalry, loyalty, or family unity.
3. Expansion to Commoners: The use of coat of arms extended beyond nobility in the 16th century, with merchants, guilds, and other wealthy families adopting crests to display their power and status.
4. Simplification of Design: In the 18th century, coat of arms design became more streamlined, with simplified line drawing rather than elaborate paintings.
5. Modern-day Usage: Today, coat of arms are used by various organizations and institutions, such as universities, corporations, and government agencies, to represent their values, history, and mission.

Throughout this evolution, many features have become commonly used within coat of arms design, such as supporters, typography, and mantling. For more information on these features, check out our related articles on supporters, typography, and mantling.

The Role of Coat of Arms Today

In modern times, Coat of Arms doesn’t have a legal status, but it still plays an important role in many different aspects of society. Today, it mostly represents a family’s or an individual’s ancestry, achievements, and aspirations. It’s considered a unique work of art that tells a story about the person or family it represents.

One of the most common ways that people use coat of arms today is by incorporating it into their personal branding or to create a unique identity for their business. Companies and organizations often use a customized coat of arms as their logo or symbol to help them stand apart from their competitors. It gives their brand a sense of heritage and makes it more memorable and recognizable.

Coat of arms is also commonly used in academic settings. Educational institutions often have their own coat of arms, which is displayed on their diplomas, certificates, and official documents. Similarly, sports teams and clubs use it to represent their identity and create a sense of community among their members.

Furthermore, Coat of Arms still plays a role in traditional ceremonies, such as weddings, funerals, and other special occasions. In some cultures, it’s customary to display the coat of arms of the bride and groom at their wedding ceremony as a symbol of their union. On the other hand, some individuals may choose to have their coat of arms engraved on their headstone or displayed at their funeral service to honor their family heritage.

The role of coat of arms today is to represent personal and family identity, craft a unique brand identity for businesses, and play a role in a variety of traditional and ceremonial settings. Whether as a symbol of heritage or a bold statement of identity, it continues to play an important role in modern society.

Symbols in Coat of Arms

Symbols in coat of arms are rich with meaning and history. These symbols are carefully chosen to represent a family, a clan, or even a nation. Animals are commonly used such as lions that symbolize bravery and strength while eagles represent courage and freedom. Colors are also important, with red representing courage and blue portraying loyalty and wisdom. Plants, such as oak trees, represent strength and stability, while wheat symbolizes abundance and prosperity. Another important category of symbols in coat of arms are shapes. The cross represents faith, the shield represents protection, and the crown represents sovereignty. The significance of each symbol in coat of arms is carefully chosen and holds great significance. Whether you are designing your own coat of arms or studying a historical emblem, understanding the meaning behind each symbol is important in appreciating this rich tradition.


Animals are some of the most commonly used symbols in coat of arms design. Each animal has its own unique meaning and significance. Here are some of the most commonly used animals:

Animal Meaning
Lion The lion is a symbol of courage, strength, and loyalty. It is commonly used in royal and noble coat of arms.
Unicorn The unicorn represents purity, power, and grace. It is a symbol of the divine and is often associated with mystical and magical qualities.
Eagle The eagle is a symbol of freedom, vigilance, and courage. It is often used in national and military coat of arms.
Bear The bear represents strength, protection, and bravery. It is often used in coat of arms of families who have a history of hunting.
Dolphin The dolphin is a symbol of intelligence, friendliness, and protection. It is often used in coat of arms of seafaring families.
Griffin The griffin is a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. It represents strength, intelligence, and courage.

Each animal can be used alone or in combination with other symbols to create a unique coat of arms that represents the values and virtues of the family or individual. It’s important to research the meanings behind each symbol before choosing them for your own coat of arms.

Note: If you’re interested in learning about the importance of heraldic crowns in coat of arms, check out our article on the importance of heraldic crowns in coat of arms.


Colors are an essential part of any coat of arms, and they represent different virtues. The following is a list of some of the most common colors in coat of arms design:

Color Meaning
Red The color red is traditionally associated with bravery, strength, and valor.
Blue Blue represents loyalty, truth, and serenity.
Green Green signifies hope, joy, and loyalty in love.
Yellow Yellow symbolizes honor, loyalty, and wisdom.
White White represents purity, peace, and sincerity.
Purple Purple denotes royalty, sovereignty, and justice.
Black Black represents grief, mourning, or constancy in battle.

In modern times, it is not unusual for people to personalize their crests with their own color choices to represent their values. For example, a person who values creativity and curiosity might choose to use orange and yellow in their coat of arms design. Some crests also feature banners which can display mottos or slogans. To learn more about banners in coat of arms, visit this page.


In coat of arms design, plants can symbolize a variety of meanings. One of the most commonly used plants is the oak tree. The oak represents strength, endurance, and steadfastness. The leaves and acorns of the oak are also used as symbols, the leaves can represent loyalty and the acorns indicate prosperity, fertility, and abundance.

Another plant often included in heraldic design is the rose. Depending on the color, roses can represent different things. A red rose can symbolize love, while a white rose can stand for purity, innocence, and virginity.

The thistle is the national flower of Scotland and is another popular plant in coat of arms design. It is a symbol of strength, resilience, and determination. It also has a strong history of representing nobility and bravery.

One other plant frequently used in coat of arms design is the laurel. The laurel leaves were used in ancient Greece to crown victors, and as such it is often associated with victory. In coat of arms design, laurel leaves can represent accomplishment, triumph, and honor.

In addition to these, many other plants have been included in coat of arms design throughout history, each with their own specific symbolism. Incorporating plants into your own coat of arms design can add depth and meaning to the overall image.

Remember that coat of arms design is about creating a unique and personal image that represents your values, history, and aspirations. If you’re unsure of how to incorporate plants into your design, or any other element for that matter, consider consulting a professional designer. They can help you create a stunning, customized coat of arms that will be a source of pride and inspiration for generations to come.

If you’re interested in personalization crests and coat of arms, visit our article on personalization crests and coat of arms to learn more about how to create a truly unique and personalized coat of arms design.


Shapes are an important element of coat of arms design as they can convey a lot of meaning with just a few lines. Here are some of the most common shapes used in coat of arms design:

Shape Meaning
Shield The most common shape in coat of arms design, it represents protection.
Roundel A circular shape that represents eternity and wholeness.
Lozenge A diamond shape that represents femininity and sometimes marriage.
Escutcheon A smaller shield shape that is often used as a support element in coat of arms design.
Bend A diagonal band that represents defense or a division in the family.
Chevron A V-shape that represents protection.
Fess A horizontal band that represents honor.
Pall A Y-shape that represents a tree and the branches of a family.

These shapes can be combined and arranged in various ways to create unique coat of arms designs that convey specific meanings and tell a story about the family or organization they represent. It’s important to consider the symbolism of each shape when designing a coat of arms, as well as how they interact with other elements like colors and symbols, in order to create a cohesive and meaningful design.

Examples of Coat of Arms with Symbols

Examples Of Coat Of Arms With Symbols
Coat of Arms have been used for centuries as a means of identification and representation. Throughout history, different regions have developed their own unique designs and symbols to represent their culture and values. The British Royal Coat of Arms, for example, features lions, unicorns, and the national motto “Dieu et mon droit” (God and my right). The US Presidential Coat of Arms incorporates the eagle, stars, and stripes of the American flag, as well as the national motto “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of many, one). The Spanish Coat of Arms includes the national colors of red and yellow, the pillars of Hercules, and a shield with various symbols representing different regions of the country. Each Coat of Arms serves as a visual representation of the history and identity of its respective region.

British Royal Coat of Arms

The British Royal Coat of Arms features a complex design that represents the history and heritage of the United Kingdom. It consists of various elements that have significant meanings. Here are the different symbols found in the British Royal Coat of Arms:

Symbol Meaning
Lion Symbol of courage, strength, and royalty
Unicorn Symbol of purity, virtue, and power
Shield Symbol of protection, defense, and victory
Crown Symbol of sovereignty, power, and authority
The motto “Dieu et mon droit” Means “God and my right” and represents the divine right of the monarchy to rule
Supporters (Lion and Unicorn) Symbolize the unity and balance of power between England and Scotland
The Order of the Garter Represents the highest order of chivalry in the UK and the motto “Honi soit qui mal y pense” which means “Shame on him who thinks evil of it”

The British Royal Coat of Arms is a testament to the rich history and traditions of the United Kingdom. It has been used since the 12th century and has undergone many variations over time to reflect the ever-changing nature of the monarchy and the country itself. Despite these changes, the symbols and meanings behind each element of the coat of arms have remained largely unchanged, serving as a reminder of the monarchy’s continuity and steadfastness throughout the centuries.

US Presidential Coat of Arms

The is an iconic symbol that represents the highest office in the country. The official design was established in 1945 by President Harry S. Truman, but its elements draw from long-standing symbols of American history.

At the center is an eagle with its wings spread wide, representing strength and freedom. The eagle clutches an olive branch and a bundle of arrows in its talons, representing peace and war. The eagle also holds a banner in its beak with the Latin inscription, “E pluribus unum,” which means “out of many, one.”

Above the eagle’s head is a constellation of thirteen stars arranged in a blue field, representing the original thirteen colonies. The shield on the eagle’s chest is adorned with thirteen stripes, alternating red and white, symbolizing the same.

On either side of the shield is a sheaf of wheat, representing prosperity. Behind the shield are a quiver of arrows and a Phrygian cap, which were both symbols of liberty during the American Revolution.

The US Presidential Coat of Arms is used to represent the Office of the President, and not any particular individual who holds the position. However, each President may choose to include personalized elements when using the coat of arms.

The US Presidential Coat of Arms is a powerful symbol of American history, values, and democracy. It is a reminder of the important role that the President plays in upholding these ideals.

Spanish Coat of Arms

The Spanish Coat of Arms is an iconic symbol of Spain’s rich history and culture. Designed in the 16th century, it is a perfect example of how different symbols can come together to represent a nation.

The main feature of the Spanish Coat of Arms is the shield, which is divided into four quarters. Each section is filled with different symbols and colors, and each has a unique meaning. The top left quarter shows the symbol of the Castile region, represented by a castle with three towers on a red background. The top right features a symbol of the House of Aragon, a cross of St. George on a white background. The bottom left represents the House of Leon with a lion on a purple background, while the bottom right shows the emblem of the House of Navarre, golden chains on a red background.

Surrounding the shield are the Collar of the Golden Fleece, a symbol of Spain’s monarchy, and two pillars with the inscription “Plus Ultra,” which translates to “further beyond” and represents Spain’s reach and influence beyond its borders.

On the top of the shield sits the crown, which is made up of gold and red stones. The crown is a symbol of the royal families that have ruled Spain throughout its history. Beneath the shield is the banner of Castile, displaying the motto “Tanto monta, monta tanto,” meaning “They amount to the same amount.”

The Spanish Coat of Arms is a great example of how symbols can be used to tell a story about a nation’s history and culture. It is a complex design that represents the four kingdoms that joined together to form Spain, as well as the country’s reach and influence throughout the world.

The Spanish Coat of Arms is a perfect example of how symbolism can be used to create a powerful and meaningful image. Its rich history and cultural significance continue to make it a beloved symbol of Spain and its people.

How to Design Your Own Coat of Arms

Designing your own coat of arms can be a fun and meaningful process. To begin, start by researching your ancestry and history to draw inspiration for symbols and colors that hold significance for your family. Next, select a design style that aligns with your personal preferences and desired aesthetic. When choosing symbols and colors, consider their meanings and how they reflect the values and traits that you wish to embody in your coat of arms. It may be helpful to consult a professional designer to ensure your final design is polished and effective. Remember to showcase your family’s unique heritage and personality through the design. Be creative, and have fun with the process!

Steps to Design Your Own Coat of Arms
1. Research your ancestry and history
2. Select a design style
3. Choose symbols and colors with significance
4. Consult a professional designer

Research your Ancestry

The first step toward designing your own coat of arms is to research your ancestry. This step is important because a coat of arms typically has elements that reflect your family history and lineage. Here are some tips to follow when researching your ancestry:

Tip Description
Start with your immediate family Interview your parents, grandparents, and other relatives to gather as much information as possible about your family history. This will help you identify significant events and people in your family’s past that can be used as inspiration for your coat of arms.
Explore family records Check birth certificates, marriage licenses, death certificates, family Bibles, and other family records for information that can help you learn more about your family’s history.
Consult with genealogists If you’re struggling to find information about your family’s history, consider consulting with a professional genealogist. They can assist you in tracing your ancestry and help uncover any hidden familial facts.
Research family crests and coats of arms Study your family crest and coat of arms if you already have one, and look for a connection between the symbols used and your family history. This will give you a starting point for designing your own coat of arms.
Find inspiration in local history Research the local history of the area where your family lived. This can provide unique inspiration for your coat of arms, as the symbols used for the region you come from can be incorporated into your design.

By conducting thorough research on your ancestry, you will have a better understanding of your family history, allowing you to identify meaningful symbols and colors that can be incorporated into your coat of arms.

Select a Design Style

Choosing a design style for your coat of arms may seem like a daunting task, but it can also be a fun and creative process. Consider what style best reflects the values and personality you want to convey through your design.

Medieval: If you want to pay homage to the historical origins of coat of arms, a Medieval style may be the way to go. This style is characterized by bold lines, intricate designs, and traditional motifs such as shields, crosses, and crowns.

Modern: For a more contemporary take on coat of arms, a Modern style may be the perfect fit. This style often emphasizes simplicity and minimalism, with clean lines and geometric shapes.

Nature-inspired: Many coat of arms incorporate nature elements such as flowers, trees, and animals. If you want to prioritize the natural world in your design, consider a nature-inspired style. This can range from realistic depictions of flora and fauna to stylized and abstract interpretations.

Cultural: If you have strong cultural ties, consider incorporating elements from your heritage into your design. This can be as simple as including traditional colors or patterns, or incorporating specific symbols or figures that are meaningful to your culture.

Ultimately, the style you choose should reflect your personal preferences and the message you want your coat of arms to convey. Don’t be afraid to get creative and mix different styles and elements to create a unique and meaningful design.

Choose Symbols and Colors

When it comes to choosing symbols and colors for your coat of arms, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, think about the message or story you want to convey through your coat of arms. Each symbol and color has its own unique meaning and can represent different aspects of your family history or values.

Symbols: Consider incorporating symbols that represent your ancestry, profession, or personality traits. Animals such as lions, eagles, and horses are common symbols in coat of arms design. They can symbolize strength, courage, and leadership respectively. Plants such as oak, rose, and wheat are also commonly used. Oak represents strength and endurance, while the rose represents beauty and love. Wheat may be used to symbolize abundance and prosperity.

Colors: Colors are just as important as symbols in coat of arms design. Each color has its own unique meaning and can affect the overall message of your coat of arms. For example, gold or yellow represents generosity and elevation of the mind. Red is associated with courage and magnanimity, while blue symbolizes loyalty and truth. Green suggests hope, joy, and loyalty in love.

While it’s important to choose symbols and colors that are significant to you and your family, it’s also important to avoid using symbols that are too common or cliché. Additionally, be mindful of the amount of symbols and colors you use in your design. Too many symbols or colors can be overwhelming or confusing, so aim for simplicity and balance.

Ultimately, choosing symbols and colors for your coat of arms can be a creative and meaningful process. By carefully selecting symbols and colors that accurately represent your family history and values, you can create a coat of arms that will stand the test of time and be a proud symbol of your family heritage for generations to come.

Consult a Professional Designer

At this stage, you should have a good idea of what you want your coat of arms to look like. However, if you are not experienced in graphic design or heraldry, it is highly recommended that you consult a professional designer to help bring your vision to life.

A professional designer can:

  • Ensure your coat of arms adheres to traditional rules and guidelines while still being unique and visually appealing
  • Create high-quality digital files of your design that can be used on various mediums, from stationery to merchandise
  • Provide insight and suggestions on color choices, typography, and other design elements to create a cohesive and effective final product
  • Offer valuable advice on how your coat of arms can be used in various contexts, such as on business cards, letterheads, or social media profiles

Keep in mind that while hiring a professional designer comes with a cost, it can be well worth it in the long run. A poorly designed or executed coat of arms may not accurately represent your family or organization, and could even be seen as disrespectful or inappropriate.

When choosing a designer, look for someone with experience in creating coat of arms designs. Check their portfolio to see if their style aligns with your vision, and read reviews from previous clients. Make sure to provide them with as much information and reference material as possible to ensure they have a clear understanding of what you are looking for.

By consulting a professional designer, you can ensure that your coat of arms accurately represents your family or organization while looking visually appealing and professional.


In conclusion, exploring the meaning behind symbols in coat of arms design can reveal fascinating insights into history and culture. Coat of arms have a rich history that dates back to medieval times, and they continue to play an important role in modern society. Each symbol used in coat of arms design has a unique meaning and significance, whether it be an animal, color, plant, or shape.

Learning the history and meanings behind these symbols can add depth and personal significance to creating a coat of arms design. Whether designing your own coat of arms or researching historical examples, the key is to select symbols and colors that reflect your values and personal background.

While designing a coat of arms can be a fun and meaningful project, consulting a professional designer can ensure that the final product meets all the technical requirements for an official coat of arms.

Overall, exploring the history and symbols behind coat of arms design can be an enjoyable and enlightening experience. It offers a glimpse into the past, while also providing a platform for personal expression and creativity. So, whether you’re a history buff, a designer, or simply curious about the world around you, delving into the world of coat of arms is definitely worth a closer look.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a coat of arms?

A coat of arms is a symbolic design that traditionally represents a family, person, or organization. It typically includes various symbols and colors that have specific meanings.

What do the symbols in a coat of arms represent?

The symbols in a coat of arms represent various qualities or characteristics that the person or organization wants to convey. These can include traits such as bravery, loyalty, intelligence, and strength.

What types of animals are commonly used in coat of arms design?

Animals such as lions, eagles, bears, and wolves are commonly used in coat of arms design. These animals are often chosen for their strength and ferocity.

What do the different colors in a coat of arms represent?

The different colors in a coat of arms have specific meanings. For example, red typically represents courage and bravery, while blue represents loyalty and truth.

Are coat of arms still used today?

Yes, coat of arms are still used today, although they are less common than they were in the past. They are often used by families, organizations, and even countries to represent their heritage and values.

What is the history of coat of arms?

Coat of arms have a long and rich history that dates back to medieval times. They were originally used to identify knights during battles and to distinguish between different families or groups.

How can I design my own coat of arms?

To design your own coat of arms, you should first research your ancestry and choose symbols and colors that represent your family or values. Then, you can work with a professional designer to create a unique and meaningful design.

What is the significance of the British Royal Coat of Arms?

The British Royal Coat of Arms is a symbol of the monarch’s authority and power. It includes various symbols that represent the four countries of the United Kingdom, as well as the monarch’s lineage and accomplishments.

What is the symbolism behind the Spanish Coat of Arms?

The Spanish Coat of Arms includes symbols such as a castle, a lion, and a pomegranate. These symbols represent the different regions of Spain, as well as the country’s history, culture, and values.

Why should I consult a professional designer when designing my own coat of arms?

A professional designer can help you create a coat of arms that is both meaningful and visually appealing. They have the skills and knowledge to ensure that your design is accurate, appropriate, and unique.


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