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Blazon: A Glossary of Terms

Blazon is the technical description of arms, the nomenclature of which is selectively defined below.

Achievement: a complete display of armorial bearings, including the crest and mantling, shield supporters and other ornaments

Addorsed: placed back to back

Affronty: facing the viewer; the stag's head often is affronty

Annulet: a ring

Armed: the teeth, talons, tusks, horns, or claws of an animal, which, when emblazoned, are a different color than its body; when the antlers of a stag or hart are a different color, they are said to be attired

Bearing: a single charge; armorial bearings collectively to refer to the entire coat of arms

Bend Sinister: a bend that goes from left to right on the shield

Cadency: the distinguishing of family members entitled to the same coat of arms by a bearing; for example, the label, which is a narrow band across the top of the shield with tags pendant from it, is the mark of cadency used by the eldest son during his father's lifetime

Canting Arms: armorial devices that allude to the owner's name by means of a pun

Charge: any heraldic figure or device placed upon the shield, including ordinaries and subordinaries, crosses, beasts, plants, and inanimate objects. A shield so decorated is said to be charged

Cinquefoil: a five-petalled flower; there also are trefoils and quatrefoils

Collared: when there is a collar or coronet around the neck, also gorged

Combatant: two creatures depicted as facing one another and rampant, as if fighting; creatures in more pacific poses are respectant

Counterchanged: when a charge superimposed over a color and a metal has its tincture reversed

Couped: cut off, as a wolf's head couped; parts that appear to be torn off and have a jagged base line are erased; an animal head that is without a neck and facing the observer is cabossed.

Crescent: a crescent moon, with the horns turned upward; when the points are dexter, it is increscent; sinister, decrescent

Crest: a device, such as a tuft of feathers, placed above the helmet, issuing from a wreath or torse of twisted silk; the helmets, themselves, differ according to rank: gold with bars (royalty), silver with gold bars (peers), steel visor open (knight), steel visor closed (gentleman). Crowns vary in the same way: those of monarches, for example, are closed; peers have open coronets.

Difference: a distinction, such as marks of cadency, in the coats of arms of closely-related persons whose shields otherwise would be the same; an augmentation also is an additional charge but is given as a mark of honor

Embowed: bent at the elbow

Embrued: with blood on its point

Estoile: a star with six wavy rays

Field: the surface of the shield on which the charge is placed

Fleur-de-lis: the heraldic lily and royal emblem of France; fleury is to be adorned with fleurs-de-lis

Garb: a sheaf of wheat

Incensed: when fire issues from the eyes, ears, or mouth of an animal

Indorsed: back to back

Inescutcheon: a smaller shield as a charge upon a shield

Invected: the engrailed line reversed

Lioncel: the name given to lions when there are more than three on the shield; more than three eagles are eaglets

Lymphad: a type of ship

Mantling: The mantle worn at the back of the helmet and held in place by a wreath of twisted silk is, in an achievement, an elaborate decorative device often stylized as acanthus leaves surrounding the shield

Marshaling: the arrangement of different coats-of-arms on the same shield, often representing the claim of one kingdom on another, either by quartering, in which the shield is divided into four or more compartments of equal sizes; impalement:, in which the arms of the husband and wife are arranged side by side on a shield parted per pale; or dimidiation, the earliest form, in which the dexter half of one shield is added to the sinister half of another

Martlet: a heraldic bird, said to represent the swift or swallow, that has no legs

Mullet: a five-pointed star; when pierced, it represents the rowel of a spur

Naiant: swimming

Pantheon: a fabulous creature a hind powdered with estoiles or mullets

Panther: depicted heraldically with flames issuing from its ears and mouth, its body powdered with multi-colored spots

Pheon: a barbed arrowhead, engrailed on its inner edges, the point borne downwards

Proper: to denote the natural and proper color of an object

Rampant: the earliest attitude of the heraldic lion: standing erect with its head in profile, with one hind paw on the ground and the other three raised (a rampant griffin is said to be segreant; a bird with its wings outstretched, displayed; an arched dolphin embowed); the attitude of the lion is classified first by the attitude of the body, the position of the head, and then by the position of the tail (the queue), for example: salient, springing, with both hind paws on the ground; passant, walking, the right forepaw raised, with its head in profile (a stag or hart is said to be trippant); statant, all four paws on the ground; sejant, sitting (in various attitudes); couchant, crouching (a stag or hart is lodged); dormant, crouching but with the head lowered. All these attitudes (except the last) are further refined by the position of the head (guardant, facing the spectator, in which case the lion was termed a leopard, or reguardant, looking backwards), and tail (which, if not erect, is extended, coward, or nowed, knotted). A beast also can be said to be courant, running, and issuant, rising

Roundel: a circle; a bezant roundel is gold, hurt (azure), ogress or pellet (sable), plate (argent), pomme (vert), torteau (gules)

Semeé: in which a number of small devices are scattered over the field to form a pattern; smaller devices are said to be powdered; a field powdered with fleurs-de-lis is semé-de-lis or fleury; a field spattered with drops of liquid (gouttes), gutty; with bezants, bezanty; with small crosses (crosslets), crusily

Slipped: with a stalk

Supporters: figures that flank the shield on either side as if to support it, allowed only to English peers and first used by Henry VI

Surmounted: applied to a charge over which another charge is laid

Talbot: medieval hunting dog

Unguled: hooved

Voided: a hole in the center of the same shape as the charge; pierced is a circular hole

Many of these terms are illustrated in the seventeenth-century achievement of the Earl of Montgomery.

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