Coats of arms have been used to define and describe families and nations from ancient times. Now many people look back on their coats of arms to trace their genealogy. A close look at the symbols on coats of arms reveals the meanings that they signify. Here are some of the more common elements in many coats of arms.
Colors are used in coats of arms as background or as a part of a motif of two or more colors. Each color has a definite meaning. Gold stands for generosity and silver or white indicates peace and sincerity. Blue is the color of truth and loyalty and green symbolizes hope and joy. Colors like red and maroon are warrior colors. Red represents military strength and maroon signifies patience and victory in battle. Purple is the color of royal majesty and justice, and orange represents noble ambition.
Animals. Animals are frequently represented on coats of arms. One of the most common is the lion. There is the lion rampant, which stands on its hind legs. This symbol represents dauntless courage. The heraldic lion represents bravery, strength, and valor. The lion is very often used in royal crests and many national crests.
Eagle is another animal that finds a frequent place in coats of arms. It represents noble nature, strength and bravery, an eagle with outspread wings depicts protection and the one with two heads shows the joining of two forces. The Roman Empire chose eagle as its insignia and in the contemporary times the United States adorns it.
Other animals include boar and the bull for bravery and valor; the cat, which indicates liberty and vigilance; the rooster means perseverance and courage; the dolphin means swiftness, charity, diligence, and love; the dragon is a valiant defender; a fish means a generous and true mind, full of virtue; the ram indicates authority; and the serpent represents wisdom. Even the unicorn is used to indicate extreme courage and virtue.
Besides animals, nature finds its way in coats of arms in the form of plants. All of these plants represent one or the other virtue. Shamrock stands for perpetuity and harvest of hope is depicted by sheaf of wheat. Rose indicates hope, joy, grace and beauty and is the most commonly used plant. Laurel leaves are used to signify victory and lily for purity.
The oak tree is a symbol of antiquity, strength, continuous growth and fertility. The leaves and nuts of the oak tree also indicate different things. The acorn represents strength and antiquity.
Weapons and armor. In addition to colors, plants, and animals, coats of arms also include weapons and armor. Hands or arms clad in arm indicate leadership. The helmet indicates strength and invulnerability, as well as wisdom. The axe indicates military duty and the arrow is a symbol of battle-readiness. A hammer is the symbol of honor. The dagger indicates justice and the shacklebolt is an indicator of victory. The spear and the pike both represent an honorable warrior or valiant knight.
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