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Dictionary of Vexillology: O (Or - Owner Absent Flag)

Last modified: 2024-06-08 by rob raeside
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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A heraldic term for the metal gold, generally (but not invariably) shown as yellow in flags - but see note below (also ‘argent’, ‘embroider’, ‘metals’ and ‘rule of tincture’).

[colour example]
Please note that Or is sometimes seen as gold leaf or metallic paint, or in an embroidered design, as gold thread.

See 'banderole 2)'.

A stylized globe usually surmounted by a cross, originally symbolic of Christ’s dominion of this world and still largely (but by no means exclusively) a symbol of monarchy - a globus cruciger (see also ‘crown’ and ‘sceptre’).

[orb example] [orb example] [orb example]
Flag of Buch, Switzerland (fotw); Flag of Mont-Ras, Spain (fotw): Flag of Upsala, Sweden (fotw)

See ‘rounded cross’.

[orbicular cross]
Flag of Agistri, Greece (fotw)

See ‘royal order in council’.

[Flag of Guernsey]
Flag of Guernsey Established by Royal Order in Council (fotw)

The heraldic term used to describe a simple charge on a shield or banner of arms as illustrated below. 

[chief example] [cross example] [pale example] [saltire example] [fess example] [pile example] [chevron example] [quarter example] [bend example]
Examples: Chief; Cross; Pale; Saltire; Fess; Pile; Chevron; Quarter; Bend

Please note that the honourable (or main) ordinaries are said to be the chief, cross, pale, saltire, fess, pile, chevron, quarter and bend, and whilst these terms are briefly described separately herein, however, it is suggested that a suitable glossary or dictionary of heraldry be consulted for full or further details.

1) See ‘masthead pennant 1)’
2) See ‘common pendant’).

[common pendant]  [common pendant]
Masthead/Ordinary Pennant, US (fotw); Common/Tricolour Pendant, England then UK 1661 – c1850 (fotw)

See ‘parade flag 2)’ (‘colour 2)’ and ‘colours 2)’).

A Parade Flag of the Royal British Legion (fotw)

1) Generically, the flag of a non-profit making organization of national rather than international significance, or of the national/district branch of an international entity, for example the UK National Trust or the Boy Scouts of America (see also ‘international flag 1)’).
2) Specifically, in US army usage – see ‘parade flag 2)’ (also ‘colour 2)’ and ‘colours 2’).

[National Trust, UK] [organizational flag] [Boy Scouts of America]
The National Trust, UK (fotw); Boules Federation 2013 – 2015, Croatia (fotw) The Boy Scouts of America, US (fotw)

The gonfanon of St Denis, the war flag of medieval France and reputedly adapted from that of Charlemagne. The exact design is uncertain and has been variously described; however, it was almost certainly of red silk, possibly triple-tailed and charged with a number of gold disks surrounded by red roses outlined in blue – the auriflamma (see also ‘gonfanon’).

[Oriflamme interpretation]
One interpretation of the Oriflamme (fotw)

1) See ‘model flag’.
2) A term that may also be used to describe the design upon which a flag family was based, or that which formed the basis of any subsequent changes – see ‘flag family’ (also ‘pan-African colours’, ‘pan-Arab colours’ and ‘pan-Slavic colours’).

[model flag example] [model flag example]
Flag of Yukon Territory, Canada (Design Details Established by type/model/original Flag) (fotw); Arab Revolt Flag 1917 (fotw)

1) The heraldic terms for a border that is inset from, and parallel to, the edges of a shield, banner of arms or flag, and which may consist of an unbroken line or be made up by a number of separate charges – for example an orle of ‘plates’ as illustrated below – but see ‘inset border’ (also ‘border’, ‘charge’, ‘inset’ and ‘double-tressure’).
2) See ‘garland 1)’.
3) The heraldic terms that also covers a series of charges in a circular (or near circular) pattern inset from the edges of a shield, banner of arms or flag, for example an orle of ‘mullets’ and the European Union flag – but see also ‘in annulo’.

 Customs Administration - Turkey orled orled
Flag of the Customs Administration, Turkey (fotw); Arms and Flag of Gαfete, Portugal (fotw)

Please note with regard to 1) that some heraldic writers would consider the inset narrow border on the Turkish flag illustrated above as a “tressure” – see ‘tressure’.

A term that describes a cross with three horizontal arms but whose lowest horizontal arm is canted, and considered to be representative of the Eastern Orthodox Churches – a three-armed, triple-armed or triple cross – but see ‘papal cross’ (also ‘cross 2)’, ‘cross of Lorraine’, ‘St. Nino's cross’ and ‘two and a half armed cross’).

Flag - Perm', Russia example Orthodox flag 
Flag of Perm' City, Russia (fotw); Example, Flag of the Church of the Life Giving Trinity, Pyongyang (

1) (Adj) Generically a term meaning rectangular or pertaining to or involving right angles.
2) (Adj) In vexillology a term which may be used when the arms of a saltire – or objects placed per saltire - are set at right angles to each other (particularly when the flag upon which it – or they - appear is rectangular rather than square) (see also ‘per saltire’ and ‘saltire
3) (Adj) In vexillology the term may also be used when the fork in the fly of a swallow-tailed flag forms a right angle at the crutch (see also ‘crutch’, and and ‘swallow-tail(ed)’).

Nonince, Slovakia Chmeľnica Strαžske
Flag of Nenince, Slovakia (fotw); Flag of Chmeľnica, Slovakia (fotw); Flag of Strαžske, Slovakia (fotw)

See ‘firesteel’.

Flag of the Serbian Orthodox Church (fotw)

The term that may be used when two borders appear within, or next to each other, to describe the one which appears on the outside edge – see ‘inner border 1)’ (also ‘border’ and ‘inset border’).

outer border example outer border example
Naval Jack 1790 – 1794, France (fotw); Naval Jack of Croatia (fotw).

A term that may be used in describing the edge of a hanging flag that is furthest from the building to which the pole is attached, and equivalent to the top edge of a conventionally hoisted flag – but see ‘outer edges’ (also ‘hanging flag’ and ‘inner edge’).

outer edge example

Please note that this term has been introduced by the Editors as no established alternative could be found.

A term that has been used to describe those edges (or design elements) of a flag or pennant that do not lie (or are not present) along the hoist edge – for example a border or a fringe – but see ‘border of three’ and ‘outer edge’ (also ‘border’, ‘fringe’ and ‘hoist 1)’).

outer edges example outer edges example outer edges example
Flag of Prince Edward Island, Canada (fotw); Obverse and Reverse of the Standard of the Navy, Italy (fotw)

Please note that this term has been introduced by the Editors as no established alternative could be found.

In German speaking, Central European and some other usage, the term  – and a direct translation of the German auslegerflagge - which covers a long vertically orientated (often but by no means invariably) commercial flag that is fixed both along its hoist to the flagpole and along the top edge to a horizontal arm or gallery - but see ‘framed flag 1)’ (also ‘banner 2)’, ‘hanging flag’, ‘gallery’ and ‘vertically hoisted flag 1)’).

outer edges example

Please note that this type of flag is also a framed flag, and should not be confused with a flag hung from an outrigger pole – see ‘hanging flag’ and ‘banner 2)’ as referenced above.

The term for a flagpole that projects from the side of a building at an upward angle, usually equipped with a halyard but is sometimes removable and fitted with clips to attach the flag directly - an angled pole (see also ‘halyard’ and ‘tangle rod’).

angled pole

1) A term used to describe that stripe which is placed above another in a horizontally striped flag, for example: red over white as illustrated below.
2) A term that is also used when one or more charges are placed above another or others, for example a star over a triangle as illustrated below – but see ‘above 1)’, ‘ensigned’ and ‘superimposed’.

over Austria over
National Flag of Singapore (fotw); National Flag of Austria (fotw); National Flag of Ħal Għargħur, Malta (fotw)

Please note with regard to 1) that use of this term is, strictly speaking, unnecessary, since the standard method of describing such flags is from top to bottom. The Editors suggest therefore, that it be restricted to bi-colours, and that the conventional terms be retained for horizontal tricolours, tri-bands and multi-stripes, however, also please note that its use in describing a flag of more than two stripes is not unknown.

1) On flags, a term used when a charge (often but by no means exclusively reaching the edges of the flag) is placed over another design, as in for example, the bend on the Artigas flag of Uruguay – but see ‘overlaid’ (also ‘charge’ ‘covering’, ‘partially covering’ and ‘throughout’).
2) In heraldry, the term can be used when a charge is placed over other charges, or over a parti-coloured field, or when an inescutcheon or cartouche is placed over four or more quarters – surtout – but see ‘surmounted, by’ (also ‘escutcheon’, ‘cartouche 1)’, ‘debruised’, ‘inescutcheon’, ‘quarter’ and ‘throughout’).

overall examples overall examples overall examples
Flag of Entre Rνos, Argentina (fotw); Flag of Tanna 1974 (fotw); Flag of Gagny, France (fotw)

Please note with regard to 2), it is suggested that a glossary or dictionary or heraldry be consulted with regard to comparative use of the terms “overall” and “surmounted by”.

1) On flags a term that may be used when one charge appears on top of another, or when that charge is set against a patterned field – but see ‘overall 1)’.
2) In heraldry see ‘surmounted by 2)’ and ‘overall 2)’ plus their following notes.

overlaid overlaid
Flag of Lucena, Brazil (fotw); Flag of Gagny, France (fotw)

In US usage the practice, almost certainly obsolete, of flying a plain blue flag from the starboard yardarm (or spreader) of a pleasure vessel when the owner is absent – an absence pennant (see also ‘dinner flag’, ‘guest on board flag’, ‘meal pennant’ and ‘yardarm’).

owner absent
Owner Absent Flag, US (fotw)

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