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List of Terms Related to Scottish Heraldry

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Scotland Project > Scottish Clans Teams > A Glossary of Clan Terms > List of Terms Related to Scottish Heraldry


Terms associated with Heraldry

  • Coat of Arms: symbols on a shield which indicate who the person is or what a place is.
    • Family Coat of Arms: In Scotland, there's NO SUCH THING! Like a fingerprint, a Coat of Arms is specific to an individual person.
  • Royal Arms of the United Kingdom: Since the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837, this Coat of Arms is displayed differently in Scotland than it is elsewhere in the United Kingdom. The differences are:
    • The Royal Unicorn of Scotland appears first (dexter) and wears a crown, on the Scottish version.
    • The quartered shield has Scotland in Quarters 1 and 4, with England's 3 lions in passant guardant in Quarter 2. Both versions show a Harp for Northern Ireland in Quarter 4.
    • The Scottish Arms have two mottos, in Scots and in Latin. The other version uses an ancient French motto.
    • The Scottish version shows the collar and badge of the Order of the Thistle. The other version shows the Order of the Garter.
    • The Scottish version has flags for the two countries borne by their respective supporters.
    • This also applies to the Tabards worn by heralds under the Lord Lyon King of Arms. In Scotland, they wear the Scottish version, while in England, they wear the English version
    • When the Queen is in residence in Scotland, it is the Scottish version of the Royal Arms that is flown, while in England, the English version is flown. These are referred to as Banners or Royal Standards.
  • Funeral Hatchment: A square piece of wood, rotated 90 degrees (to make a diamond), showing the deceaced's arms and pious motto or two. These would be placed on the door of the deceased's home, as well as in the church where the funeral was to take place.

Descriptive Terms

  • a fess: a stripe across the middle
  • a pale: a stripe down the middle
  • Argent: the colour silver (or metal)
  • At Gaze: refers to a stag that is looking at you (facing forward)
  • Blazon: the words which describe the coat of arms
  • Cabossed: the forward-looking placement of an animal head
  • Canting Arms: a pun, based on the name of the person, shown in an image. In France, they are called armes parlantes or talking arms.
  • Chequy: checkered, like a tablecloth or chess-board
  • Clawed: refers to an animal's claws exposed.
  • Couped: a careful placement of an animal's head
  • Crest: an object that sits atop the shield
  • Charge: a shape or object painted on a shield
  • Demi: half of an animal. For example: a demi-lion rampant is the top half of a standing lion.
  • Dexter: Left-facing, or left side of a shield
  • Double Tressure: a double-lined, painted frame
  • Erased: a rough placement of an animal's head
  • Guardant: refers to a lion that is facing you (looking forward)
  • Gules: the colour Red
  • Gyronny: Triangular shapes
  • Hatching: The use of dots and lines to identify colour on items or in black and white images. Seals and signet rings also used hatching.
    • Gold - identified by small dots
    • Silver - identified by the lack of any dots or lines
    • Red - a series of vertical lines
    • Blue - a series of horizontal lines
    • Green - a series of diagonal lines
  • Helm: a helmet between the shield and crest
  • Motto: a phrase placed ABOVE the crest in Scotland, BELOW the crest in England.
  • Mullet: a star
  • Or: the colour Gold (or metal)
  • Heater: refers to a half-oval shaped shield, used predominantly for men
  • Impaled: refers to the merging of two Coats of Arms, usually after the marriage of an armigerous couple.
    • The male arms are on the Dexter (left) and the female are on the Sinister (right).
  • Langued: refers to the tongue of an animal that is protruding from its mouth
  • Lodged: refers to a stag that is sitting
  • Lozenge: refers to a diamond-shaped shield, used predominantly for women, with an oval variation being used for corporate bodies and institutions.
  • Rampant: standing on hind legs
  • Reguardant: Refers to a stag looking behind itself
  • Sejant: refers to a lion that is sitting
  • Sinister: right-facing, or right side of a shield
  • Supporters: Usually an animal (but can be a person or object) on each side of the shield, support it. This is ONLY granted to peers, chan chiefs, and rarely to others.
  • Tinctures: Metals and colours
  • Tricking: The process of identifying colours in black and white, using labels
  • Vessica: A shield type, shown as an oval with pointed ends, predominantly used for religious arms.
  • Winged: refers to an animal with wings


  • Cross, behind the shield: one cross-bar signifies a bishop in the Catholic Church, while two cross-bars signifies an Archbishop

Clothing, Hats and Flags

  • Coronet: represents status, according to the type of coronet displayed.
    • Duke: has only strawberry leaves
    • Marquess: strawberry leaves with two pearls showing (assume there are two more on the back)
    • Earl/Countess: strawberry leaves, with 5 pearls visible.
        • Lord: four pearls visible, no strawberry leaves
    • Viscount: a tight row of nine pearls visible, no strawberry leaves
  • Geneva Bonnet:
  • Mitre: Used by the Scottish Episcopal Church to identify both persons (bishops) and corporate bodies (a diocese); and the Catholic Church to signify a Diocese.
  • Galero: The historical hat of clergymen. Until the 20th century, the Church of Scotland ministers recorded arms the same as everyone else. After this, some began to incorporate the Galero into their arms. Also used by the Catholic church to signify a person.
    • Beginning in 1832, colour and the number of tassels on each side, were used to differentiate between positions of people in the Church.
      • Red - signifies a Cardinal (since 1245)
      • Green - signifies Bishops (6 tassels) and Archbishops (10 tassels)
      • Black - signifies a priest (1 tassel)


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