Symbolism of Heraldry
The following coat of arms symbols have been excerpted from W. Cecil Wade’s “The Symbolism of Heraldry or A Treatise on the Meanings and Derivations of Armorial Bearings”. Published in London in 1898. For more Information check out The Romance of Heraldry Book Click on the book to go to our shop.
Colors and Metals
Or, yellow or gold – Generosity.
Argent, white or silver – Peace and sincerity.
Sable or black – Constancy, sometimes grief.
Azure or blue – Loyalty and truth.
Gules or red – Military fortitude and magnanimity.
Vert or green – Hope, joy and sometimes loyalty in love.
Purpure, purple – Royal majesty, sovereignty and justice.
Tenne or tawney – Worthy ambition.
Murray or sanguine – Not hasty in battle, and yet a victor.
Nebulee or Nebuly – The sea or water.
Engrailed and Invected – Earth or land.
Indented – Fire.
Dancette – Water.
Ragulee or Raguly – Difficulties which have been encountered.
Embattled – Fire or the walls of a fortress or town.
Chief – Dominion and authority.
Cross – Chevron – Protection.
Fess – Military belt or girdle of honor.
Bar – For “one who sets the bar of conscience, religion and honor against angry passions.
Pale – Military strength and fortitude.
Palet – Same as Pale.
Pile – Same as Pale.
Canton – Bearing of honor. When borne charged, it often contains some special symbols granted by the sovereign in reward for the performance of eminent service.
Quarter – Bearing of honor. Similar to the Canton.
Bend – Defense or protection.
Battune Sinister – Marks a royal descent that is barred by illegitimacy from succession to the throne.
Orle or Tressure – Preservation or protection.
Flasques – Given by a king for virtue and learning, and especially for service in embassage.
Voiders – Given to gentlewomen who have deserved highly.
Bordure or Border – Frequently adopted as a “difference” between relatives bearing the same arms.
Gyron – Unity.
Lion – Deathless courage.
Tiger – Great fierceness and valor when enraged to combat; one whose resentment will be dangerous if aroused.
Bear – Ferocity in the protection of kindred.
Wolf – Denotes valiant captains that do in the end gain their attempts after long sieges and hard enterprises. One whom it is dangerous to assail or thwart.
Rhinoceros – Great ferocity when aroused.
Elephant – Courage and strength.
Heraldic Tiger – Same as Tiger.
Leopard – Valiant and hardy warrior.
Panther – As a lion may be said to signify a brave man, so may a panther a beautiful woman, which, though fierce, is very tender and loving to her young, and will defend it with the hazard of her life.
Horse – Readiness for all employments for king and country.
Bull or Ox – Valor and magnanimity.
Boar – A fierce combatant when at bay, and ceases fighting only with its life, and therefore may be properly applied as the armorial bearing of a warrior.
Goat – Emblem of that martial man who wins a victory by the employment rather of policy than valor.
Lamb – Gentleness and patience under suffering.
Ram – Authority.
Hares and Rabbits – One who enjoys a peaceable and retired life.
Squirrel – Sylvan retirement being the delight of its bearer.
Hedgehog – Provident provider.
Beaver – Industry and perseverance.
Fox – One who will use all that he may posses of sagacity, wit or wisdom in his own defense.
Talbot, Mastiff and Greyhound – Courage, vigilancy and loyal fidelity.
Cat or Cat-A-Mountain – Liberty, vigilance, forecast and courage.
Camel – Docility, patience and indefatigable perseverance.
Bee – Well-governed industry.
Ant – Symbolizes a man of great labor, wisdom and providence.
Spider – Wisdom, labor and providence in all affairs.
Grasshopper – Wisdom and nobility.
House Snail – Deliberation and perseverance.
Double Eagle and Eagle – Signifies a man of action, ever more occupied in high and weighty affairs, and one of lofty spirit, ingenious, speedy in apprehension and judicious in matters of ambiguity.
Alerion – Signifies one who having been maimed and lamed in war, was thus prevented from fully asserting his power.
Wings – Celebrity, sometimes protection or coverture.
Feathers (usually ostrich) – Willing obedience and serenity.
Falcon or Hawk – One eager or hot in the pursuit of an object much desired.
Hawks or Falcons Bells – One who feared not to signal his approach in either peace or war.
Owl – One who is vigilant and of acute wit.
Peacock – Beauty and pride of carriage.
Pelican – Devoted and self-sacrificing charity.
Stork – Filial duty, emblem of a grateful man.
Swan – A lover of poetry and harmony.
Goose and Duck – A man of many resources.
Gannet – To subsist by the wings of his virtue and merit, having little land to rest upon.
Swallow – One who is prompt and ready in the dispatch of his business.
Cock – Courage, always ready for battle, ready to fight to the death.
Dove – Loving constancy and peace.
Raven – One who, having derived little from his ancestors, has through Providence become the architect of his own fortunes or one of an enduring constancy of nature.
Crow – Signifies a settled habitation and a quiet life.
Dolphin – Charity and a kind affection towards children.
Tortoise – Invulnerability to attack.
Unicorn – Extreme courage.
Griffin – Sets forth the property of a valorous soldier whose magnanimity is such that he will dare all dangers, and even death itself, rather than become captive.
Dragon – A most valiant defender of treasure.
Cockatrice – Terror to all beholders.
Sphinx – Omniscience and secrecy.
Pegasus – Exceeding activity and energy of mind whereby one may mount to honour.
Harpy – Ferocity under provocation.
Mermaid – Eloquence.
Centuar – For those who have been eminent in the field.
Hydra – The conquest of a very powerful enemy.
Phoenix – Resurrection.
Stag, Hart, Buck and Deer – Policy, Peace and Harmony.
Horns and Antlers – Strength and Fortitude.
Escallop Shell – One who has made long journeys or voyages to far countries, who had borne considerable naval command or who had gained great victories.
Other Shells – Protection of Providence.
Heart – Charity, sincerity.
Flaming Heart – Ardent affection.
Hand – Faith, sincerity and justice.
Red Hand – Usual mark for a baronet if borne on a small escutcheon.
Arm – A laborious and industrious person.
Gauntlet – Signify a man armed for the performance of martial enterprise.
Leg – Strength, stability and expedition.
Shoe – Same as Leg.
Foot – Same as leg.
Human Head – Honor.
Blackamoor Head – Deeds of prowess in the Crusades.
Skulls – Mortality.
Crossed Thigh-bones – Mortality.
Eye – Providence in Government.
Millstones – The mutual converse of human society.
Sceptre – Justice.
Trident – Maritime dominion.
Crown – Royal or seigniorial authority.
Celestial Crown – Heavenly reward.
Pastoral Crosier – The emblem of a shepherd’s watchfulness over his flock, and denotes episcopal jurisdiction and authority.
Annulet or Finger Ring – Fidelity.
Lozenge – Honesty and constancy, also held to be a token of noble birth.
Billets – Their first bearer was a man who obtained credence, knowledge and faith in his words and deeds, and who was secret in his affairs.
Pen – Emblematic of the liberal art of writing and of learned employments.
Inkhorn – Same as pen.
Harp – Contemplation.
Lyre – Same as harp.
Scythe – Hope of a fruitful harvest of things hoped for.
Sickle – Same as Scythe.
Anchor – Succor in extremity and the Christian symbol of hope.
Ship, Lumphiad or Galley – All such symbols would point to some notable expedition by sea, by which, perhaps, the first bearers had become famous.
Cubes, squares or dice – Constancy, wisdom, verity probity, and equity.
Lozenge – Same as Cubes.
Axe — Execution of military duty.
Purse – A frank and liberal steward of the blessings that God has bestowed .
Tower or Castle – Grandeur and solidity. Sometimes granted to one who has held one for his king, or who has captured one by force or stratagem.
Bridge – Signifies a governor or magistrate.
Pillar or Column – Fortitude and constancy.
Snake – Wisdom.
Scaling Ladder – One who was fearless in attacking.
Crosses – Symbolic of some Christian experience or sentiment.
Trestles and stools – Hospitality.
Cushions – Marks of authority.
Angels, Cherubs and Seraphs – Dignity, glory and honor.
Estoiles – Emblems of God’s goodness or of some eminence in the first bearer above the ruder sort of men.
Mullet – Denotes some Divine quality bestowed from above.
Gold Spur – Dignity of knighthood.
Silver Spur – An esquire.
Sun – Glory and splendor.
Crescent – Signifies one who has been enlightened and honored by the gracious aspect of his sovereign.
Moon – Serene power over mundane actions.
Fire – Zeal.
Lightning – The effecting of some weighty business with great clarity and force.
Rocks – Safety, refuge and protection.
Portcullis – Effectual protection in emergency.
Hunting Horn – One who is fond of high pursuits.
Trumpet – Ready for the fray.
Cannon, Mortars, Cannon Balls and Grenades – Well bestowed on those who have dared their terrors in sieges and battles.
Sword – Indicates the bearer to a just and generous pursuit of honor and virtue in warlike deeds.
Arrows and Arrowheads – Martial readiness.
Spear or Lance – Knightly service and devotion to honor.
Spear Heads or Pheons – Dexterity and nimbleness of wit to penetrate and understand matters of highest consequence.
Shield – A defender.
Saddles, Stirrups and Spurs – Preparedness for active service.
Horse Shoe – Good luck.
Trunk of a Tree – An object of veneration.
Fusil – Travel and labour.
Shacklebolt – Victory in war.
Water Bougets – Conferred on those who had brought water to an army or besieged place.
Catharine Wheel – Emblem of one who is prepared to undergo great trials for the Christian faith.
Escarbuncle – Supremacy.
Buckles – Victorious fidelity in authority.
Clarion or Rest – Same as Trumpet.
Beacons or Cressets – One who is watchful for the commonwealth or who gave the signal in time of danger.
Chains – A reward for acceptable or weighty service.
Fusil of Yarn – Negotiation.
Fret – Persuasion
Gold Roundles – One who has been found worthy of trust and treasure.
White Roundles – Generosity.
Wheel – Fortune.
Cornucopia – Bounty of Nature’s gifts.
Chaplets and Wreaths – Granted for special service