A spar rigged at an upward angle from the upper part of a mast or pole, and
equipped with a halyard at its highest point from which an ensign is flown when
at the peak. A gaff may be fitted to the mizzenmast (or other masts dependent upon the rig) of a sailing ship, or from
the mast of a warship (when it will sometimes carry a command flag), or from a
mast (or stayed mast) ashore (see also ‘fore’,
‘shift colours’ and
Notes a) If a gaff is fitted to a flag pole or mast for civilian
or naval use ashore, it is generally (but not exclusively) that flag which is used as a
naval/civil ensign (or a yacht ensign if appropriate) which is flown from its peak (see also
‘civil ensign’ and
‘yacht ensign’ under
b) (While underway) sailing ships - whether civilian or naval -
still have the option of flying their ensigns for the peak of the gaff if fitted, or from two-thirds the way up
the leech of the mainsail if Bermuda rigged (see also ‘leech’).
Please note that in the early-middle ages, standards were
sometimes (for reasons which are now unclear) transported into battle and displayed
whilst mounted on some form of wheeled conveyance.
1) A Portuguese generic term that covers a number of small flags or pennants (in several, varying types),
often given away or sold as souvenirs.
2) The term was also used by 19th century French sources to describe Brazilian merchant ship pendants - see ‘merchant ship pendant’.
Galhardete/Merchant Ship Pendant of Pernambuco, Brazil (fotw)
A three or four-masted sailing vessel of the mid-16th to the early 18th Century (see also ‘caravel’ and ‘carrack’).
1) Generically a ship whose motive power was principally provided by her oars (see also ‘galley ensign’).
2) Specifically the heraldic term for an oared warship with more than one mast - but see
Flag and Arms of Ílhavo, Portugal (fotw);
Flag and Arms of Kragerø, Norway (fotw)
In largely Mediterranean usage, a distinctive ensign or flag now
obsolete, that was specifically flown from a warship whose principal motive
power came from her oars rather than her sails (see also
1) In heraldry, a term for a closed or almost closed ring consisting
of intertwined leaves, or of leaves and flowers – a chaplet or orle
2) On flags as above, but the term is also used to describe an open topped
wreath composed of leaves, or of leaves and/or flowers, etc., that does not exceed
two-thirds the depth of the object surrounded (for example that on the flag of
Parana, Brazil) – or sometimes considerably less – but see
‘crossed branches 1)’ and
In US usage, the largest of the three standard sizes of national flag flown
at army and marine corps posts - 20 x 38 feet or 6.1 x 10.9m (see also
‘post flag 1)’,
‘storm flag’ and
Please note that the use of standard sizes of flag
at army posts is by no means limited to the US (although the names may differ),
and that the largest size is the one displayed on days of national celebration
and/or service significance, or as otherwise regulated (see also
‘holiday colours’ and
The colours introduced by Marcus Garvey in 1917 and designed to represent African-American heritage;
they were internationally adopted in 1920 and are now used on several national flags – the black liberation or Afro-American flag or colours - but see
1) The heraldic term for any gemstone found in a ring’ – stoned.
2) In some systems of European heraldry, the term used to describe when an object (such as an orb crown or mitre) is decorated with jewels – but see ‘garnished’.
In British RN and some other usage, an unofficial pennant of varying design – now
often a defaced version of the starboard pennant in the NATO signalling code – raised
when a ship’s officers wish to entertain the officers of another ship or ships
(see also ‘pennant 2)’ and
‘senior officer afloat pennant’).
One version of the gin pennant, UK (CS)
Please note that the above is usually made on board
from whatever materials lie to hand, however, the company Gordon’s Gin are known to
have supplied a number of commercially produced gin pennants to yachtsmen in the 1950’s.
Commercially Produced Gin Pennant c1955, UK (CS)
GIRON (GERONNY, GYRONS or GIRONNÉ)
Alternative heraldic terms for gyronny - see ‘gyronny’.