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Dictionary of Vexillology: S (S Pennant - Saw-toothed)

Last modified: 2016-05-23 by rob raeside
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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In US naval usage, a triangular pennant that is flown (from the port or starboard yardarm when in port) to indicate that the vessel has won an annual safety award competition (see also ‘award flag’).

[safety pennant]
Safety Afloat Pennant, USN (seaflags)

In UK and US tradition and some others, a sword with a full handguard, and a curved single-edged blade (originally) designed for use by mounted troops – but see note below.

[saber example] [saber example] [saber example] [saber example]
Flag and Arms of Cycσw, Poland (fotw); Flag and Arms of Dobre, Poland (fotw)

Please note that in some Central and East European usage the term is used to describe a sword with a curved single-edged blade but with a plain cross guard as illustrated below – but see ‘scimitar’.

[saber example]  [saber example]
Čavle (Municipality, Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, Croatia)

The heraldic term for the colour black (see ‘Appendix III’ and ‘rule of tincture’).

[colour example]

1) A special flag of internationally recognized design – such as that of the Red Cross, Red Crescent, Red Crystal and others – which (by international agreement) protects personnel engaged in medical succour, ambulances, civil and field hospitals and hospital ships against military action – a Geneva Convention flag, or flag of protection (see also ‘international flag’ and ‘supra-national flag’).
2) The Red Cross, Red Crescent, Red Crystal and other recognized flag designs (together with arm brassards or painted symbols) are also used to indicate the facilities and personnel of these organisations rendering aid to the survivors and casualties of natural or human disasters (see also ‘international flag’ and ‘supra-national flag’).

IRCRC flags
Red Cross Flag Red Crescent Flag Red Crystal Flag (fotw)

Please note that on 8 December 2005 the International Committee of the Red Cross adopted a Protocol (Protocol III) authorizing a red crystal (diamond shape) as an additional non-religious and politically neutral symbol, however, please also note that the flags of the Red Cross and of its associated organizations are at the same time international flags, safe conduct, flags of protection and Geneva Convention flags.

1) In Japanese usage one of several green and white flags symbolizing safe conditions in various situations (see also ‘weather flag 2)’.
2) See ‘beach flag’ and ‘storm warning flag’ (also ‘airfield safety flag’ and ‘red flag 1)’).

safety flag safety flag safety flag
Safety Flag for General Use, Japan (fotw); Health Flag; Japan (fotw); Health and Safety Flag, Japan (fotw)

1) In traditional English heraldry see ‘antique ship’.
2) In vexillology and in modern heraldry the term for a wind-powered (and usually sea-going) vessel regardless of type.

sailing ship sailing ship sailing ship sailing ship
Flag of Belgrade, Serbia (fotw); Flag of Elmshorn, German (fotw); Flag of Paimpol, France France (fotw); Flag of Quebec City, Canada (fotw)

Please note with regard to 2) that to individually list the many types of sailing vessel is beyond the remit of this dictionary, however, please see ‘caravel’ and its following note.

sailing ship sailing ship
The Arms and Flag of Velas, Portugal showing a caravel (fotw)

In largely German usage, a flag pole or mast (most often) erected ashore for the multiple display of barge or inland waterway related flags for decorative purposes, and equipped with a long gaff and yard – a display mast or bargemen’s association display mast (see also ‘dress ship’, ‘gaff’, ‘stayed mast’ and ‘yard’).

Please note that this term is a translation of the German schiffermast, and that use of such masts seems to be restricted to associations of bargemen or similar.

1) See ‘saltire’.
2) A white saltire on a blue field – the national flag of Scotland or the Scottish saltire (see also, ‘St. George's Cross 2)’, ‘St. Patrick's Cross’ and ‘union jack 1)’).
3) A blue saltire on a white field – the naval ensign of the Russian Federation (and formerly of the Russian Empire) - a St. Andrew's ensign, Andreevskiĭ, Andreevsky or Ahndreeyeeskeey.

Scotland Russian naval ensign
National Flag of Scotland (fotw); Naval Ensign of Russia (fotw)

Please note that whilst the term St George's Cross generally refers only to a red cross on a white field, the Cross of St Andrew, due to a tradition that the saint was crucified on a diagonal cross, has come to be regarded by many as a saltire of any colour or metal on a field of any colour or metal. Although this is considered inaccurate in English heraldic or vexillological usage, it is common in countries and languages where a term equivalent to “saltire” does not exist.

See ‘St Andrew’s cross 3)’ above.

[Russian naval ensign]
Naval Ensign of Russia (fotw)

See ‘cross tau’ in ‘appendix VIII’.

[St. Anthony's cross]
Flag of Sint Anthonis, The Netherlands (fotw)

A representation of the torture wheel upon which, according to Christian tradition, St Catherine is reputed to have been executed – a wheel of St Catherine, a torture or bladed wheel (see also ‘waterwheel’).

[St. Catherine's wheel] [St. Catherine's wheel] [St. Catherine's wheel] [St. Catherine's wheel] [St. Catherine's wheel] [St. Catherine's wheel]
Flag and Arms of Ryglice, Poland (fotw); Flag of St Catherine’s College Cambridge, UK (fotw); Flag of Ueken, Switzerland (fotw); Arms and Flag of Vila Facaia, Portugal (fotw)

See ‘cross 1)’ (also ‘St George’s Cross 3)’).

[Blanes Spain]
Flag of Blanes, Spain (fotw)

See ‘canton of St. George’.

[Russian naval ensign]
Flag of the Honourable East India Company c1710, England

1) Generically, see ‘cross 1)’.
2) Specifically, the Cross (as above) of St George - the national flag of England and the flag of the ancient Republic of Genoa - a Cross of St George. (see also ‘canton of St. George’, ‘St. Andrew's Cross’ and ‘St George’s ensign’, ‘St. Patrick's Cross’ and ‘union jack 1)’).
3) Any red cross on a white field - but see note b) below.

[England] [Genoa, Italy] [Genoa, Italy]  
From left: National Flag of England (fotw); Arms and Flag of Genoa, Italy (fotw)

Any cross of St George whose arms are of equal length is also a Greek cross (see also 'Greek cross').
b) In Balkan and Central European usage a white cross on red is also sometimes referred to as the Cross of St George.

[Donji Miholjac, Croatia] [Donji Miholjac, Croatia]
Arms and flag of Donji Miholjac, Croatia (Željko Heimer)

In English later British RN usage now obsolete, the term to describe a white ensign charged with a Cross of St George overall (as per the present pattern), and formerly used in order to differentiate it from one having a plain fly (see also ‘canton of St. George’ and ‘St George’s Cross 2)’ and ‘white ensign 1)’).

[British White Ensign] [British White Ensign] [British White Ensign] [British White Ensign]
From left: White Ensign, England 1702 – 1707; With Plain Fly c1630 - 1707; White Ensign, UK 1707 – 1801; With Plain Fly 1707 – c1730 (CS)

Please note that white ensigns bearing a Cross of St George overall were introduced in 1702 and were at first restricted to use outside home waters, however, the version with a plain fly had disappeared by 1744.

See ‘cross of Santiago’ in ‘appendix VIII’.

[Order of St. James]
Cross of the Order of Santiago (fotw)

A cross, both of whose horizontal arms point downwards and considered symbolic of the Georgian Orthodox Church – a grapevine cross – but see note below (also ‘cross 2)’ and ‘orthodox cross’).

St. Nino's Cross St. Nino's Cross St. Nino's Cross
Flag of Ninotsminda, Georgia (fotw); Flag of Sighnaghi, Georgia (fotw); Flag of Kaspi, Georgia (fotw)

Please note that the flag of the Georgian Orthodox Church may (occasionally) be charged with a cross of this type, however, when it is hoisted from a conventional flagpole the downward sloping arms will point towards the fly.

St. Nino's Cross
Flag of the Georgian Orthodox Church bearing a St Ninn’s Cross (Tomislav Todorovic)

A red saltire on a white field (see also 'saltire', and 'St Andrew's Cross 2)', ‘St. George's Cross 2)’) and ‘union jack 1)’).

Please note that this saltire has no known links to the saint, but when adopted for the British Union Flag was a symbol of the knightly Order of St Patrick (see also ‘union jack’).

See ‘appendix V’.

[Villarepos flag]
Flag of Villarepos, Switzerland (fotw)

1) In vexillology a cross whose arms are diagonal - a diagonal or diagonally-centred cross (see also ‘orthogonal’, ‘layered saltire’, ‘panel’, ‘ragged cross’, St. Andrew’s Cross’ and ‘St. Patrick's Cross’).
2) In heraldry as above but traditionally symbolic of martyrdom see also ‘in saltire’ and 'per saltire',

[Jamaica - saltire] [Lab, Slovakia - arms] [Burundi] [Lab, Slovakia - flag] Prachatice, Czech Republic [Sweden 1815-1844]
From left: National Flag of Jamaica (fotw); Arms and Flag of Lαb, Slovakia (fotw); National Flag of Burundi (fotw); Flag of Prachatice city, Czech Republic (fotw); War Ensign of Sweden 1815 - 1844 (fotw)

See ‘ragged cross’ and raguly’.

[saltire raguly]
Regimental Colour of the Louisiana Infantry 1780, Spanish America (fotw)

See ‘in saltire’.

[saltirewise flag]
Flag of Wohlenschwil, Switzerland (fotw)

That custom, often prescribed by law or regulation, which requires military personnel to salute and civilians to remove their hats or place the right hand over their heart when a flag is raised or lowered, or when it passes in parade (see also ‘flag salute’).

The heraldic term for blood-red - see ‘shades of tincture’ in ‘Appendix III’.


1) A band of material, usually in the national colours and sometimes bearing the national arms, worn across the chest by a head of state, especially (but not exclusively) in South America, or by some civic officials (see also ‘national colours 2)’ and ‘state arms 2)’ under ‘arms’).
A similar symbol (although usually – but not invariably - based on political rather than national colours) used by political organizations (see also ‘political flags 1)’).

[Political sash]  [Presidential sash of Honduras]  [Civic sash of France]  [Political sash] 
The Presidential Sash of Uruguay (fotw); The Presidential Sash of Honduras (Eugene Ipavec); Civic Sash of France; Political Sash of the Women’s Suffragette Movement 1917, US

The civic sash of France is most often (although not invariably) seen with the blue stripe uppermost, it is usually fringed/decorated and sometimes worn around the waste rather than across the chest.
b) Sashes are also worn with some military and civilian awards.

[sash ]
HRH The Duke of Kent wearing the Sash of the Order of the Garter, UK (

See ‘daimyo flags’ and its following notes.

The French for “leaping”, which is also sometimes used in place of, or in addition to, the heraldic terms rampant or salient – see ‘rampant’ and ‘salient’ in ‘appendix V’ (also ‘erect’ in ‘appendix V’).

Betten, Switzerland
Flag of Betten, Switzerland (fotw)

See ‘serrated’ (also ‘wolfteeth’).

[saw-toothed example]
Flag of Magellan Region, Chile (fotw)

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