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A national flag is a
flag A flag is a piece of fabric A textile is a flexible material made by creating an interlocking network of yarn Yarn is a long continuous length of interlocked fibres, suitable for use in the production of textiles, sewing, crochetin ...

flag
that represents and symbolizes a given
nation A nation is a community A community is a social unitThe term "level of analysis" is used in the social sciences to point to the location, size, or scale of a research target. "Level of analysis" is distinct from the term " unit of observation ...

nation
. It is flown by the
government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department ...

government
of that nation, but usually can also be flown by its
citizen Citizenship is a relationship between an individual and a state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection. Each state determines the conditions under which it will recognize persons as its citizens, and th ...

citizen
s. A national flag is typically designed with specific meanings for its colours and symbols, which may also be used separately from the flag as a symbol of the nation. The design of a national flag is sometimes altered after the occurrence of important historical events. The burning or destruction of a national flag is a greatly symbolic act. Scholar Xiao Congrong pointed out that no matter how the concept of the national flag changes, its essence has not changed - the "symbolic flag" for identifying identity. The meanings of identity, politics and military behind the symbol are all ways of use explored by people in practice according to purpose and communication. Because the national flag essentially shows the identification symbol of a political power in the form of a flag, sometimes there are more than one "symbol flag" that can represent the political power, and they can even replace each other without special provisions, which leads to some countries or political powers using other flags instead of the national flag in actual use.肖聪榕(Xiao CongRong
国旗设计的发展概论(Analysis on the development of national flag design)
J].神州,2021(23):143-144. DOI:10.12217/j.issn.1009-5071.2021.23.069.
The national flag, as the flag symbol of the state power, is related to the flag symbol of the political entity of the predecessor of the state power. The origin of flag design is usually closely related to war and military flags, and even shared in the early stage - because a new regime often faces the pressure of war. In addition, military groups (such as revolutionary army, insurgent army, military government, etc.) often play an important role in a regime.In addition to the military flag, the symbolic flags of these political entities can also be traced back to the flags of the chamber of Commerce, the party flag, the colonial flag and other flags of the predecessor of the regime. They have a lot of superposition in practical use, that is, the flag of the political entity has a certain symbolic meaning representing the army and the regime before it is upgraded to a formal flag.


History

Historically, flags originate as
military standard In military organizations, the practice of carrying colours, standards or guidons, both to act as a rallying point for troops and to mark the location of the commander, is thought to have originated in Ancient Egypt some 5,000 years ago. The ...
s, used as
field sign {{Distinguish, field mark A field sign is an unofficial differencing mark worn on a combatant's clothing to show the difference between friend and foe or a combatant and a civilian. Examples *A in the livery colors of a lord and bearing his coat ...
s. The practice of flying flags indicating the country of origin outside of the context of warfare became common with the
maritime flag A maritime flag is a flag A flag is a piece of fabric (most often rectangular or quadrilateral) with a distinctive design and colours. It is used as a symbol, a signalling device, or for decoration. The term ''flag'' is also used to refer to ...
. The current design of the
flag of the Netherlands The flag of the Netherlands ( nl, de Nederlandse vlag) is a horizontal tricolour (flag), tricolour of red, white, and blue. The current design originates as a variant of the late 16th century orange-white-blue ''Prince's Flag, Prinsenvlag'' ...

flag of the Netherlands
originates as a variant of the late 16th century orange-white-blue ''
Prinsenvlag The Prince's Flag ( nl, Prinsenvlag) is a Dutch flag, first used in the Dutch Revolt during the late 16th century. The Prince's Flag is based on the Flag of Prince William of Orange-Nassau, hence the name. The colours are orange Orange mos ...

Prinsenvlag
'' ("Prince's Flag"), that was used in the Dutch War of Independence (1568–1648), evolving in the early 17th century as the red-white-blue ''
Statenvlag The ''Statenvlag'' ("States Flag") is the name of the flag of the States-General of the Dutch Republic The United Provinces of the Netherlands, or United Provinces (officially the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands), commonly referre ...

Statenvlag
'' ("States Flag"), the naval flag of the States-General of the
Dutch Republic The United Provinces of the Netherlands, or United Provinces (officially the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands), commonly referred to in historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was ...
, making the Dutch flag perhaps the oldest tricolour flag in continuous use, although standardisation of the exact colours is of a much later date. During the
age of sail Age or AGE may refer to: Time and its effects * Age, the amount of time something has been alive Alive may refer to: *Life Life is a characteristic that distinguishes physical entities that have biological processes, such as signaling a ...

age of sail
in the early 17th century, the
Union Jack The Union Jack, or Union Flag, is the de facto national flag of the United Kingdom. Though no law has been passed officially making the Union Jack the national flag of the United Kingdom, it has effectively become the national flag through prec ...

Union Jack
finds its origins, when
James VI of Scotland James VI and I (James Charles Stuart; 19 June 1566 – 27 March 1625) was King of Scotland The monarch of Scotland was the head of state of the Kingdom of Scotland. According to tradition, the first King of Scots was Kenneth I MacAlpi ...
inherited the English and Irish thrones (as James I). On 12 April 1606, the new flag representing this regal union between England and Scotland was specified in a royal decree, according to which the
flag of England The flag of England is derived from Saint George's Cross (heraldic blazon: ''Argent, a cross gules''). The association of the red cross as an emblem of England can be traced back to the Late Middle Ages, and it was increasingly used alongsid ...

flag of England
(a red cross on a white background, known as
St George's Cross In heraldry, Saint George's Cross, also called the Cross of Saint George, is a red heraldic cross, cross on a white background, which from the Late Middle Ages became associated with Saint George, the military saint, often depicted as a crusades ...

St George's Cross
), and the
flag of Scotland The flag of Scotland ( gd, bratach na h-Alba; sco, Banner o Scotland, also known as St Andrew's Cross or the Saltire) is the national flag A national flag is a flag that represents and symbolizes a given nation. It is Fly (flag), flown by ...

flag of Scotland
(a white
saltire A saltire, also called Saint Andrew's Cross or the crux decussata, is a heraldic Heraldry () is a broad term, encompassing the design, display and study of armorial bearings (known as armory), as well as related disciplines, such as vexillology ...

saltire
on a blue background, known as the Saltire or St Andrew's Cross), would be joined, forming the flag of Great Britain and first Union Flag - but then without the red Cross of St. Patrick. It continued in use until January 1, 1801, the effective date of the legislative union of Great Britain and Ireland, when the Cross of St. Patrick (a red diagonal cross on white) was incorporated into the flag, giving the Union Jack its current design. With the emergence of
nationalist Nationalism is an idea and movement that promotes the interests of a particular nation (as in a in-group and out-group, group of people),Anthony D. Smith, Smith, Anthony. ''Nationalism: Theory, Ideology, History''. Polity (publisher), Polity, ...
sentiment from the late 18th century national flags began to be displayed in civilian contexts as well. Notable early examples include the
US flag The flag of the United States of America, often referred to as the American flag or the U.S. flag, is the national flag of the United States. It consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white, with ...

US flag
, which was first adopted as a naval ensign in 1777 but began to be displayed as a generic symbol of the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country in . It consists of 50 , a , five major , 326 , and some . At , it is the world's . The United States shares significan ...

United States
after the
American Revolution The American Revolution was an ideological and political revolution which occurred in colonial North America between 1765 and 1783. The Americans in the Thirteen Colonies defeated the British in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) ...
, and the
French Tricolor The flag of France (french: link=no, drapeau français) is a Tricolour (flag), tricolour flag featuring three vertical bands coloured blue (Flag terminology#Description of standard flag parts and terms, hoist side), white, and red. It is known t ...
, which became a symbol of the
Republic A republic () is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a month ...
in the 1790s. Most standardised and codified the designs of their maritime flags as national flags, in the course of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The specifications of the
flag of Denmark The flag of Denmark ( da, Dannebrog, ) is red with a white Nordic Cross Flag, Scandinavian cross that extends to the edges of the flag; the vertical part of the cross is shifted to the hoist side. A banner with a white-on-red cross is attested as ...

flag of Denmark
, based on a flag that was in continuous use since the 14th-century, were codified in 1748, as a rectangular flag with certain proportions, replacing the variant with a split. The
flag of Switzerland The flag of Switzerland (german: Schweizerfahne; french: drapeau de la Suisse; it, bandiera svizzera; rm, bandiera de la Svizra) displays a white cross (heraldry), cross in the centre of a square red field. The white cross is known as the Swis ...

flag of Switzerland
was introduced in 1889, also based on medieval war flags. In Europe, the red-white-blue tricolour
Netherlands ) , national_anthem = ( en, "William of Nassau") , image_map = EU-Netherlands.svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = BES islands location map.svg , map_caption2 = , image_map3 ...
, recently reaffirmed by a royal decree on Feb. 19, 1937, became really popular. The colours of which were associated with a republican form of government through that country's long war of independence against the
Spanish Crown , coatofarms = Coat of Arms of Spanish Monarch.svg , coatofarms_article = Coat of arms of the King of Spain , image = (Felipe de Borbón) Inauguración de FITUR 2018 (39840659951) (cropped).jpg , incumbent = Feli ...
. That association was greatly reinforced after the
French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) was a period of radical political and societal change in France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a country primarily located in Western Europe, consi ...

French Revolution
(1789), when France used the same colors, but with vertical instead of horizontal stripes. Other countries in Europe, like the
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster-Scots: ) is an island upright=1.15, Great_Britain.html"_;"title="Ireland_(left)_and_Great_Britain">Ireland_(left)_and_Great_Britain_(right),_are_large_islands_of_north-west_Europe image:Small_Island_in ...

Ireland
,
Romania Romania ( ; ro, România ) is a country at the crossroads of Central Central is an adjective usually referring to being in the center (disambiguation), center of some place or (mathematical) object. Central may also refer to: Directions ...

Romania
and
Estonia Estonia ( et, Eesti ), officially the Republic of Estonia ( et, Eesti Vabariik, links=no), is a country in . It is bordered to the north by the across from , to the west by the across from , to the south by , and to the east by and . The ter ...

Estonia
and in South and Central America selected tricolours of their own to express their adherence to the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity as embodied in the French flag. The
Ottoman flag The Ottoman Empire The Ottoman Empire (; ota, دولت عليه عثمانيه ', literally "The Sublime Ottoman State"; Modern Turkish: ' or '; french: Empire ottoman) (''Osmanean Têrut´iwn'', meaning "Ottoman Authority/Governance/Rule" ...
(now the
flag of Turkey The flag of Turkey, officially the Turkish flag ( tr, Türk bayrağı) is a red flag A flag is a piece of textile, fabric (most often rectangular or quadrilateral) with a distinctive design and colours. It is used as a symbol, a signalling d ...

flag of Turkey
) was adopted in 1844. Other non-European powers followed the trend in the late 19th century, the
flag of Japan The National flag, national flag of Japan is a rectangular white banner bearing a crimson-red circle at its center. This flag is officially called the , but is more commonly known in Japan as the . It embodies the country's sobriquet: the Land o ...

flag of Japan
being introduced in 1870, that of
Qing China The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n''." Oxford University Press Oxford University Pre ...
in 1890. Also in the 19th century, most countries of South America introduced a flag as they became independent (
Peru , , image_flag = Flag_of_Peru.svg , image_coat = Escudo_nacional_del_Perú.svg , other_symbol = Great Seal of the State , other_symbol_type = Seal (device), National seal , national_mott ...

Peru
in 1820,
Bolivia Bolivia ; ay, Wuliwya ; Quechuan languages, Quechua: ''Puliwya'' , officially the Plurinational State of Bolivia, is a landlocked country located in western-central South America. The constitutional capital is Sucre, while the seat of g ...

Bolivia
in 1851,
Colombia Colombia ( , ; ), officially the Republic of Colombia, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by conv ...

Colombia
in 1860,
Brazil Brazil ( pt, Brasil; ), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: ), is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers (3.2 million square miles) and with over 211 mill ...

Brazil
in 1822, etc.)


Process of adoption

The national flag is often mentioned or described in a country's
constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a rule Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political ...

constitution
, but its detailed description may be delegated to a flag law passed by the legislature, or even
secondary legislation In parliamentary systems and presidential systems of government, primary legislation and secondary legislation, the latter also called delegated legislation or subordinate legislation, are two forms of law, created respectively by the legislatur ...
or in monarchies a
decree A decree is a rule of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, ...
. Thus, the national flag is mentioned briefly in the
Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany (german: Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland) is the constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles A principle is a proposition or value that is a g ...
of 1949 "the federal flag is black-red-gold" (art. 22.2 ''Die Bundesflagge ist schwarz-rot-gold''), but its proportions were regulated in a document passed by the government in the following year. The
Flag of the United States The flag of the United States of America, often referred to as the American flag or the U.S. flag, is the national flag of the United States. It consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white, with ...

Flag of the United States
is not defined in the constitution but rather in a separate Flag Resolution passed in 1777. Minor design changes of national flags are often passed on a legislative or executive level, while substantial changes have constitutional character. The design of the
flag of Serbia The flag of Serbia ( sr, Застава Србије, Zastava Srbije), also known as the Tricolor ( sr, тробојка, ''trobojka''), is a tricolor consisting of three equal horizontal bands, red on the top and blue Blue is one of the thr ...

flag of Serbia
omitting the communist star of the
flag of Yugoslavia The flag of Yugoslavia; sl, zastava Jugoslavije; mk, знаме на Југославија, translit=zname na Jugoslavija was the official flag of the Yugoslav state from 1918 to 1992. The flag's design and symbolism are derived from the Pan ...

flag of Yugoslavia
was a decision made in the 1992 Serbian constitutional referendum, but the adoption of a coat of arms within the flag was based on a government "recommendation" in 2003, adopted legislatively in 2009 and again subject to a minor design change in 2010. The Flag of the United States underwent numerous changes because the number of stars represents the number of states, proactively defined in a Flag Act of 1818 to the effect that "on the admission of every new state into the Union, one star be added to the union of the flag"; it was changed for the last time in 1960 with the accession of
Hawaii Hawaii ( ; haw, Hawaii or ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspape ...

Hawaii
. A change in national flag is often due to a change of regime, especially following a
civil war A civil war, also known as an intrastate war in polemology, is a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine publis ...
or
revolution In political science Political science is the scientific study of politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, suc ...

revolution
. In such cases, the military origins of the national flag and its connection to political ideology (
form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Departmen ...
, monarchy vs. republic vs. theocracy, etc.) remains visible. In such cases national flags acquire the status of a political symbol. The
flag of Germany The flag of Germany Germany (german: Deutschland, ), officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in . It is the in Europe after , and the most populous . Germany is situated between the and seas to the north, and the to the s ...

flag of Germany
, for instance, was a tricolour of black-white-red under the
German Empire The German Empire or the Imperial State of Germany,, officially '.Herbert Tuttle Herbert Tuttle (1846–1894) was an American historian. Biography Herbert Tuttle was born in Bennington, Vermont Bennington is a New England town, town ...
, inherited from the
North German Confederation The North German Confederation (german: Norddeutscher Bund) was the Germans, German federal state which existed from July 1867 to December 1870. The Confederation came into existence after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 over the lordship of tw ...
(1866). The
Weimar Republic The Weimar Republic (german: Weimarer Republik ) was the German state from 1918 to 1933 when it functioned as a federal constitutional republic. The state was officially named the German Reich (german: Deutsches Reich, link=no, label=none), ...
that followed adopted a black-red-gold tricolour.
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945, was ...

Nazi Germany
went back to black-white-red in 1933, and black-red-gold was reinstituted by the two successor states,
West Germany West Germany is the common English name for the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG; german: Bundesrepublik Deutschland , BRD) between its formation on 23 May 1949 and the German reunification German reunification (german: Deutsche Wieder ...
and
East Germany East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic (GDR; german: Deutsche Demokratische Republik, , DDR, ), was a state that existed from 1949 to 1990 in eastern Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines, a current ...
, with East Germany's flag being defaced with Communist symbols, following
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
. Similarly the
flag of Libya The flag of Libya was originally introduced in 1951, following the creation of the Kingdom of Libya. The flag, consisting of the Pan Arab colours, was designed by Omar Faiek Shennib and approved by Idris of Libya, King Idris Al Senussi who comp ...

flag of Libya
introduced with the creation of the
Kingdom of Libya The Kingdom of Libya ( ar, المملكة الليبية, lit=Libyan Kingdom, translit=Al-Mamlakah Al-Lībiyya; it, Regno di Libia; ber, ⵜⴰⴳⵍⴷⵉⵜ ⵏ ⵍⵉⴱⵢⴰ), known as the United Kingdom of Libya until 1963, came into exi ...
in 1951 was abandoned in 1969 with the
coup d'état A coup d'état (; French for "blow of state"), often shortened to coup in English, (also known as an overthrow) is a seizure and removal of a government and its powers. Typically, it is an illegal, unconstitutional seizure of power by a politic ...
led by
Muammar Gaddafi Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, Modern Standard . Due to the lack of standardization of transcribing written and regionally pronounced Arabic, Gaddafi's name has been romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Ling ...
. It was used again by
National Transitional Council The National Transitional Council of Libya ( ar, المجلس الوطني الإنتقالي ' ), sometimes known as the Transitional National Council, was the ''de facto'' government of Libya for a period during and after the Libyan Civil War ...
and by
anti-Gaddafi forces The anti-Gaddafi forces were Libya Libya (; ar, ليبيا, Lībīyā), officially the State of Libya, ( ar, دولة ليبيا, Dawlat Lībīyā) is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the n ...
during the
Libyan Civil War Libyans (ليبيون) and their population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the Libya Libya (; ar, ليبيا, Lībīyā), officially the State of Lib ...

Libyan Civil War
in 2011 and officially adopted by the
Libyan interim Constitutional Declaration The Constitutional Declaration is the current supreme law of Libya Libya (; ar, ليبيا, Lībīyā), officially the State of Libya, ( ar, دولة ليبيا, Dawlat Lībīyā) is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa bordered by t ...
.


Usage

There are three distinct types of national flag for use on land, and three for use at sea, though many countries use identical designs for several (and sometimes all) of these types of flag.


On land

On land, there is a distinction between
civil flag A civil flag is a version of the national flag that is flown by civilians on nongovernmental installations or craft. The use of civil flags was more common in the past to denote buildings or ships not crewed by the military. In some countries, th ...
s ( FIAV symbol ),
state flag In vexillology Vexillology () is the study of the history, symbolism and usage of s or, by extension, any interest in flags in general.Smith, Whitney. ''Flags Through the Ages and Across the World'' New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975. Print. The w ...
s (), and war or military flags (). Civil flags may be flown by anyone regardless of whether they are linked to government, whereas state flags are those used officially by government agencies. War flags (also called military flags) are used by military organizations such as Armies, Marine Corps, or Air Forces. In practice, many countries (such as the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country in . It consists of 50 , a , five major , 326 , and some . At , it is the world's . The United States shares significan ...

United States
and the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
) have identical flags for these three purposes; national flag is sometimes used as a vexillological term to refer to such a three-purpose flag (). In a number of countries, however, and notably those in
Latin America * ht, Amerik Latin, link=no * pt, América Latina, link=no , image = Latin America (orthographic projection).svg , area = , population = ( est.) , density = , ethnic_groups = , ethnic_groups_year = 2018 , ethnic ...

Latin America
, there is a distinct difference between civil and state flags. In most cases, the civil flag is a simplified version of the state flag, with the difference often being the presence of a coat of arms on the state flag that is absent from the civil flag. Very few countries use a war flag that differs from the state flag. The
People's Republic of China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere ...

People's Republic of China
, the
Republic of China (Taiwan) Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia. It shares Maritime boundary, maritime borders with the China, People's Republic of China (PRC) to the northwest, Japan to the northeast, and the Philippines to the sout ...

Republic of China (Taiwan)
, and
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an in ...

Japan
are notable examples of this. Swallow-tailed flags are used as war flags and naval ensigns in
Nordic countries The Nordic countries (also known as the Nordics or ''Norden''; lit. 'the North') are a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impac ...

Nordic countries
and charged versions as presidential or royal standards. The
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republ ...

Philippines
does not have a distinctive war flag in this usual sense, but the
flag of the Philippines The national flag of the Philippines ( fil, pambansang watawat ng Pilipinas) is a horizontal bicolor flag with equal bands of royal blue Royal blue is a deep and vivid shade of blue Blue is one of the three primary colours of pig ...

flag of the Philippines
is legally unique in that it is flown with the red stripe on top when the country is in a state of war, rather than the conventional blue. Flag of Austria.svg,
Civil flag A civil flag is a version of the national flag that is flown by civilians on nongovernmental installations or craft. The use of civil flags was more common in the past to denote buildings or ships not crewed by the military. In some countries, th ...
of
Austria Austria (, ; german: Österreich ), officially the Republic of Austria (german: Republik Österreich, links=no, ), is a landlocked Eastern Alps, East Alpine country in the southern part of Central Europe. It is composed of nine States o ...

Austria
Flag of Austria (state).svg,
State flag In vexillology Vexillology () is the study of the history, symbolism and usage of s or, by extension, any interest in flags in general.Smith, Whitney. ''Flags Through the Ages and Across the World'' New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975. Print. The w ...
of
Austria Austria (, ; german: Österreich ), officially the Republic of Austria (german: Republik Österreich, links=no, ), is a landlocked Eastern Alps, East Alpine country in the southern part of Central Europe. It is composed of nine States o ...

Austria
People's Liberation Army Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg, Flag of the People's Liberation Army of the People's Republic of China


At sea

The flag that indicates nationality on a ship is called an
ensign An ensign is the national flag flown on a vessel to indicate nationality. The ensign is the largest flag, generally flown at the stern (rear) of the ship while in port. The naval ensign (also known as war ensign), used on warships, may be differ ...

ensign
. As with the national flags, there are three varieties: the
civil ensign A civil ensign is an ensign An ensign is the national flag flown on a vessel to indicate nationality. The ensign is the largest flag, generally flown at the stern (rear) of the ship while in port. The naval ensign (also known as war ensign), ...
(), flown by private vessels; state ensigns (also called government ensigns; ), flown by government ships; and war ensigns (also called naval ensigns; ), flown by naval vessels. The ensign is flown from an
ensign An ensign is the national flag flown on a vessel to indicate nationality. The ensign is the largest flag, generally flown at the stern (rear) of the ship while in port. The naval ensign (also known as war ensign), used on warships, may be differ ...

ensign
-staff at the
stern The stern is the back or aft Aft :''For the acronym, see AFT (disambiguation).'' Aft, in naval A navy, naval force, or maritime force is the branch of a Nation's armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, ...

stern
of the ship, or from a gaff when underway. Both these positions are superior to any other on the ship, even though the masthead is higher. In the absence of a gaff the ensign may be flown from the
yardarm ''. ''Prince Williams royal yards are the highest and smallest yards on the ship, are made of wood, and are "lifting yards" that can be raised along a section of the mast. Here it is in the lowered position. A yard is a spar (sailing), spar on a ...
. (See
Maritime flags A maritime flag is a flag A flag is a piece of fabric A textile is a flexible material made by creating an interlocking network of yarn Yarn is a long continuous length of interlocked fibres, suitable for use in the production o ...
.) National flags may also be flown by aircraft and the land vehicles of important officials. In the case of aircraft, those flags are usually painted on, and those are usually to be painted on in the position as if they were blowing in the wind. In some countries, such as the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country in . It consists of 50 , a , five major , 326 , and some . At , it is the world's . The United States shares significan ...

United States
and
Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America North America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, ...

Canada
(except for the Royal Canadian Navy's Ensign), the national ensign is identical to the national flag, while in others, such as the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
and
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an in ...

Japan
, there are specific ensigns for maritime use. Most countries do not have a separate state ensign, although the United Kingdom is a rare exception, in having a
red ensign The Red Ensign or "Red Duster" is the civil ensign of the United Kingdom, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is one of the British ensigns, and it is used either plain or defacement (flag), defaced with a badge or other ...
for civil use, a
white ensign The White Ensign, at one time called the St George's Ensign due to the simultaneous existence of a cross-less version of the flag, is an ensign worn on British Royal Navy ships and shore establishments. It consists of a red St George's Cross on ...
as its naval ensign, and a
blue ensign The Blue Ensign is a flag A flag is a piece of fabric A textile is a flexible material made by creating an interlocking network of yarn Yarn is a long continuous length of interlocked fibres, suitable for use in the product ...
for government non-military vessels.


Protocol

There is a great deal of protocol involved in the proper display of national flags. A general rule is that the national flag should be flown in the position of honour, and not in an inferior position to any other flag (although some countries make an exception for royal standards). The following rules are typical of the conventions when flags are flown on land: *When a national flag is displayed together with any other flags, it must be hoisted first and lowered last. *When a national flag is displayed together with the national flags of other countries, all the flags should be of approximately equal size and must be flown at an equal height, although the national flag of the host country should be flown in the position of honour (in the centre of an odd number of flagpoles or at the far right — left from an observer's point of view — of an even number of flagpoles). *The flags of
Saudi Arabia (''Shahada'') , national_anthem = "National Anthem of Saudi Arabia, " "National Anthem of Saudi Arabia" , image_map = Saudi Arabia (orthographic projection).svg , capital = Riyadh , coordinates ...

Saudi Arabia
,
Iraq Iraq ( ar, الْعِرَاق, translit=al-ʿIrāq; ku, عێراق, translit=Êraq), officially the Republic of Iraq ( ar, جُمْهُورِيَّة ٱلْعِرَاق '; ku, کۆماری عێراق, translit=Komarî Êraq), is a country i ...

Iraq
,
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger regio ...

Iran
,
Afghanistan Afghanistan (; Pashto/Dari language, Dari: , Pashto: , Dari: ), officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country at the crossroads of Central Asia, Central and South Asia. Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan to the ea ...

Afghanistan
and
Lebanon Lebanon ( , ar, لُبْنَان, translit=lubnān, ), officially the Republic of Lebanon or the Lebanese Republic, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part ...

Lebanon
are wrapped (from left to right - from right to left from the side an observer's point of view), as some of these flags carry
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region ...

Arabic
texts. *When a national flag is displayed together with flags other than national flags, it should be flown on a separate flagpole, either higher or in the position of honour. *When a national flag is displayed together with any other flags on the same flagpole, it must be at the top, though separate flagpoles are preferable. *When a national flag is displayed together with any other flag on crossed flagpoles, the national flag must be on the observer's left and its flagpole must be in front of the flagpole of the other flag. *When a national flag is displayed together with another flag or flags in procession, the national flag must be on the marching right. If there is a row of flags, it should be in the position of honour. *When a national flag, with some exceptions, is flown upside down it indicates distress. This however is merely tradition. It is not a recognised distress signal according to the
International regulations for preventing collisions at sea The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 (COLREGs) are published by the International Maritime Organization The International Maritime Organization (IMO, French: ''Organisation Maritime Internationale''; known a ...
. Further, a nation's flag is commonly flown inverted as a sign of protest or contempt against the country concerned. As of now, only the
flag of the Philippines The national flag of the Philippines ( fil, pambansang watawat ng Pilipinas) is a horizontal bicolor flag with equal bands of royal blue Royal blue is a deep and vivid shade of blue Blue is one of the three primary colours of pig ...

flag of the Philippines
recognises the distress symbolism of the reverse flag.


Hanging a flag vertically

Most flags are hung vertically by rotating the flag pole. However, some countries have specific protocols for this purpose or even have special flags for vertical hanging; usually rotating some elements of the flag — such as the coat of arms — so that they are seen in an upright position. Examples of countries that have special protocol for vertical hanging are:
Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America North America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, ...

Canada
,
Czech Republic The Czech Republic, also known by its short-form name Czechia and formerly known as Bohemia, is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Austria to the south, Germany to the west, Poland to the northeast, and Slovakia to ...

Czech Republic
,
Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, Elláda, ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeastern Europe Southeast Europe or Southeastern Europe () is a geographical subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In geogr ...

Greece
,
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a ...

Israel
, the
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republ ...

Philippines
,
South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over 60 million people, it is the world's 23rd-most populous nation and covers an area of . South Africa has three capital citie ...

South Africa
, and the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
(reverse always showing); and the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
(obverse always showing). Examples of countries that have special designs for vertical hanging are:
Austria Austria (, ; german: Österreich ), officially the Republic of Austria (german: Republik Österreich, links=no, ), is a landlocked Eastern Alps, East Alpine country in the southern part of Central Europe. It is composed of nine States o ...

Austria
,
Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inh ...

Germany
,
Hungary Hungary ( hu, Magyarország ) is a in . Spanning of the , it is bordered by to the north, to the northeast, to the east and southeast, to the south, and to the southwest and to the west. Hungary has a population of 10 million, mostl ...

Hungary
,
Mexico Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organi ...

Mexico
,
Montenegro Montenegro (; cnr, Crna Gora, , , ; sq, Mali i zi) is a country in Southeastern Europe Southeast Europe or Southeastern Europe () is a geographical subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In geography Geography (fro ...

Montenegro
,
Poland Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 Voivodeships of Poland, administrative provinces, covering an area of , and has a largely Temperate climate, temperate seasonal cli ...

Poland
, and
Slovakia Slovakia (; sk, Slovensko ), officially the Slovak Republic ( sk, Slovenská republika, links=no ), is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, Hungary to the south, Austria to th ...

Slovakia
(coat of arms must be rotated to normal position);
Cambodia Cambodia (; also Kampuchea ; km, កម្ពុជា, ), officially the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochinese peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is in area, bordered by Thailand to Cambodia–T ...

Cambodia
(coat of arms must be rotated and blue strips are narrowed);
Dominica Dominica ( or ; Kalinago : ; french: Dominique; Dominican Creole French Dominican Creole French is a French-based creole, which is the generally spoken language in Dominica Dominica ( or ; Kalinago language: ; french: Dominique; Do ...

Dominica
(coat of arms must be rotated and reverse always showing);
Liechtenstein Liechtenstein ( ; ), officially the Principality of Liechtenstein (german: link=no, Fürstentum Liechtenstein), is a German-speaking The German language (, ) is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in Central Europe Central Europ ...

Liechtenstein
(crown must be rotated);
Saudi Arabia (''Shahada'') , national_anthem = "National Anthem of Saudi Arabia, " "National Anthem of Saudi Arabia" , image_map = Saudi Arabia (orthographic projection).svg , capital = Riyadh , coordinates ...

Saudi Arabia
(
shahada The ''Shahada'' ( ar, ٱلشَّهَادَةُ ' , "the testimony"), also spelled ''Shahadah'', is an Islam Islam (; ar, اَلْإِسْلَامُ, al-’Islām, "submission o God Oh God may refer to: * An exclamation; similar ...

shahada
must be rotated). File:Flag of Slovakia vertical.svg, Vertical variation of the
flag of Slovakia The current form of the national National may refer to: Common uses * Nation A nation is a community of people formed on the basis of a common language, history, ethnicity, or a common culture, and, in many cases, a shared territory. A nati ...

flag of Slovakia
. File:Flag of Cambodia vertical.svg, Vertical variation of the
flag of Cambodia (The national flag of Cambodia) , Use = 111111 , Symbol = , Proportion = 16:25 , Adoption = 19481993 (readopted) , Relinquished = 1970 (replaced by flag of the Khmer Republic) , Design = Three horizontal bands of blue, red (double width) and blu ...

flag of Cambodia
. File:Vertical Flag of Dominica.svg, Vertical variation of the
flag of Dominica The flag of Dominica was adopted on 3 November 1978, with some small changes having been made in 1981, 1988, and 1990. The original flag was designed by playwright Alwin Bully in early 1978 as the country prepared for independence. History and d ...

flag of Dominica
. File:Flag of Liechtenstein vertical.svg, Vertical variation of the . File:Vertical flag of Nepal.svg, Vertical variation of the
flag of Nepal The national flag of Nepal Nepal (; ne, नेपाल ), officially Nepal, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country in South Asia. It is mainly in the Himalayas, but also includes parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. It is the List of cou ...

flag of Nepal
. File:Flag of Saudi Arabia (Hanging).svg, Vertical variation of the
Flag of Saudi Arabia The National flag, flag of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ( ar, علم المملكة العربية السعودية) is the flag used by the government of Saudi Arabia since 15 March 1973. It is a green flag featuring in white an Arabic language, A ...

Flag of Saudi Arabia
.


Design

The art and practice of designing flags is known as
vexillography Vexillography is the art and practice of designing flags; it is allied with vexillology Vexillology () is the study of the history, symbolism and usage of flag A flag is a piece of textile, fabric (most often rectangular or quadrilateral) w ...
. The design of national flags has seen a number of customs become apparent. All national flags are rectangular, except for the
flag of Nepal The national flag of Nepal Nepal (; ne, नेपाल ), officially Nepal, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country in South Asia. It is mainly in the Himalayas, but also includes parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. It is the List of cou ...

flag of Nepal
. The ratios of height to width vary among national flags, but none is taller than it is wide, again except for the flag of Nepal. The flags of
Switzerland , french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_type = Federalism, Federal semi-direct democracy under an assembly-independent Directorial system, directorial republic , leader_title1 = Fe ...

Switzerland
and the
Vatican City Vatican City (), officially the Vatican City State ( it, Stato della Città del Vaticano; la, Status Civitatis Vaticanae),—' * german: Vatikanstadt, cf. '—' (in Austria: ') * pl, Miasto Watykańskie, cf. '—' * pt, Cidade do Vatica ...

Vatican City
are the only national flags which are exact squares. The obverse and reverse of all national flags are either identical or mirrored, except for the
flag of Paraguay The flag of Paraguay Paraguay (; ), officially the Republic of Paraguay ( es, República del Paraguay, links=no; gn, Tetã Paraguái, links=no), is a country in South America South America is a continent entirely in the Weste ...

flag of Paraguay
and the partially recognized
Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (; SADR; also romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as t ...
. See
Flags whose reverse differs from the obverse This article contains a list of flags for which the reverse (back) is different from the obverse (front). It includes current as well as historic flags of both nations and national subdivisions such as provinces, states, territories, and cities (inc ...
for a list of exceptions including non-national flags. As of 2011 all national flags consist of at least two different colours. In many cases, the different colours are presented in either horizontal or vertical bands. It is particularly common for colours to be presented in bands of three. It is common for many flags to feature national symbols, such as
coats of arms A coat of arms is a heraldic visual design on an escutcheon (i.e., shield A shield is a piece of personal armour held in the hand, which may or may not be strapped to the wrist or forearm. Shields are used to intercept specific attacks, ...

coats of arms
. National patterns are present in some flags. Variations in design within a national flag can be common in the flag's upper left quarter, or canton.


Colours

The most popular colours in national flags are red, white, green, dark blue, yellow, light blue, and black. The only national flag not to include the colors red, white, or blue is
Jamaica Jamaica (; ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an individual's birth, residence or ...

Jamaica
. The occurrence of each colour in all the flags is listed in detail in the table below. The table shows that the colours light brown, dark brown and grey only occur in very small quantities. In fact, they only occur in the symbols on flags, such as in the
Spanish flagSpanish flag may refer to the flag of Spain or two flowering plants or a fish: *''Gonioplectrus hispanus, a species of grouper *''Ipomoea lobata'' *''Lantana camara'' {{disambig ...

Spanish flag
.


Similarities

Although the national flag is meant to be a unique symbol for a country, many pairs of countries have highly similar flags. Examples include the flags of
Monaco Monaco (; ), officially the Principality of Monaco (french: Principauté de Monaco; Monégasque Ligurian: ''Prinçipatu de Mu̍negu''), is a sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The ...

Monaco
and
Indonesia Indonesia ( ), officially the Republic of Indonesia ( id, Republik Indonesia, links=yes ), is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is t ...

Indonesia
, which differ only slightly in proportion and the tint of red; the flags of the
Netherlands ) , national_anthem = ( en, "William of Nassau") , image_map = EU-Netherlands.svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = BES islands location map.svg , map_caption2 = , image_map3 ...

Netherlands
and
Luxembourg Luxembourg ( ; lb, Lëtzebuerg ; french: link=no, Luxembourg; german: link=no, Luxemburg), officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, ; french: link=no, Grand-Duché de Luxembourg ; german: link=no, Großherzogtum Luxemburg is a landlocked ...

Luxembourg
, which differ in proportion as well as in the tint of blue used; and the flags of
Romania Romania ( ; ro, România ) is a country at the crossroads of Central Central is an adjective usually referring to being in the center (disambiguation), center of some place or (mathematical) object. Central may also refer to: Directions ...

Romania
and
Chad Chad (; ar, تشاد , ; french: Tchad, ), officially known as the Republic of Chad ( ar, جمهورية تْشَاد, link=no '; ), is a landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an oce ...

Chad
, which differ only in the tint of blue. The flags of
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster-Scots: ) is an island upright=1.15, Great_Britain.html"_;"title="Ireland_(left)_and_Great_Britain">Ireland_(left)_and_Great_Britain_(right),_are_large_islands_of_north-west_Europe image:Small_Island_in ...

Ireland
and
Ivory Coast Ivory Coast, also known as Côte d'Ivoire, officially the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, is a country located on the south coast of West Africa. Côte d'Ivoire's political capital is Yamoussoukro in the centre of the country, while its largest ...

Ivory Coast
and the flags of
Mali Mali (; ), officially the Republic of Mali (french: République du Mali; bm, ߡߊߟߌ ߞߊ ߝߊߛߏߖߊߡߊߣߊ, Mali ka Fasojamana, ff, 𞤈𞤫𞤲𞥆𞤣𞤢𞥄𞤲𞤣𞤭 𞤃𞤢𞥄𞤤𞤭, Renndaandi Maali, ar, جمهورية م ...

Mali
and
Guinea Guinea (), officially the Republic of Guinea (french: link=no, République de Guinée), is a coastal country in West Africa. Guinea borders the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Guinea-Bissau to the northwest, Senegal to the north, Mali to the no ...

Guinea
are (aside from shade or ratio differences) vertically mirrored versions from each other. This means that the reverse of one flag matches the obverse of the other. Unlike horizontally mirrored flags (like
Poland Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 Voivodeships of Poland, administrative provinces, covering an area of , and has a largely Temperate climate, temperate seasonal cli ...

Poland
and
Indonesia Indonesia ( ), officially the Republic of Indonesia ( id, Republik Indonesia, links=yes ), is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is t ...

Indonesia
) the direction in which these flags fly is crucial to identify them. There are three colour combinations that are used on several flags in certain regions. Blue, white, and red is a common combination in
Slavic countries Slavs are a European ethno-linguistic group of people who speak the various Slavic languages The Slavic languages, also known as the Slavonic languages, are Indo-European languages The Indo-European languages are a language family nat ...

Slavic countries
such as the
Czech Republic The Czech Republic, also known by its short-form name Czechia and formerly known as Bohemia, is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Austria to the south, Germany to the west, Poland to the northeast, and Slovakia to ...

Czech Republic
,
Slovakia Slovakia (; sk, Slovensko ), officially the Slovak Republic ( sk, Slovenská republika, links=no ), is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, Hungary to the south, Austria to th ...

Slovakia
,
Russia Russia ( rus, link=no, Россия, Rossiya, ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe Eastern Europe is the eastern region of . There is no consistent definition of the precise area it covers, partly because th ...

Russia
,
Serbia Serbia (, ; Serbian Serbian may refer to: * someone or something related to Serbia, a country in Southeastern Europe * someone or something related to the Serbs, a South Slavic people * in both meanings, depending on the context, it may ref ...

Serbia
,
Slovenia Slovenia ( ; sl, Slovenija ), officially the Republic of Slovenia (Slovene: , abbr.: ''RS''), is a country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, l ...

Slovenia
, and
Croatia , image_flag = Flag of Croatia.svg , image_coat = Coat of arms of Croatia.svg , anthem = "Lijepa naša domovino ''Lijepa naša domovino'' (; ) is the national anthem A national anthem is a song that ...

Croatia
as well as among Western nations including
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
,
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses ...

France
,
Iceland Iceland ( is, Ísland; ) is a Nordic Nordic most commonly refers to: * Nordic countries, written in plural as Nordics, the northwestern European countries, including Scandinavia, Fennoscandia and the List of islands in the Atlantic Ocean#N ...

Iceland
,
Norway Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway,Names in the official and recognised languages: Bokmål Bokmål (, ; literally "book tongue") is an official written standard for the Norwegian language Norwegian (Norwegian: ''norsk'') is a Nort ...

Norway
,
New Zealand New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ''Aotearoa'' (; commonly pronounced by English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon Engl ...

New Zealand
, the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
, the
Netherlands ) , national_anthem = ( en, "William of Nassau") , image_map = EU-Netherlands.svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = BES islands location map.svg , map_caption2 = , image_map3 ...

Netherlands
and the
United States of America The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States of America
. Many African nations use the
Pan-African colours Pan-African colours is a term that may refer to two different sets of colours: * Red, yellow Yellow is the color Color ( American English), or colour ( Commonwealth English), is the characteristic of visual perception described thro ...
of red, yellow, and green, including
Ethiopia Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the ...

Ethiopia
,
Ghana Ghana (), officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country in West Africa West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of . The defines Western Africa as the 17 countries of , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and as well as .Paul R. ...

Ghana
,
Cameroon Cameroon (, french: Cameroun), officially the Republic of Cameroon (french: République du Cameroun, links=no), is a country in west 250px, A compass rose with west highlighted in black West or Occident is one of the four cardinal direc ...

Cameroon
,
Mali Mali (; ), officially the Republic of Mali (french: République du Mali; bm, ߡߊߟߌ ߞߊ ߝߊߛߏߖߊߡߊߣߊ, Mali ka Fasojamana, ff, 𞤈𞤫𞤲𞥆𞤣𞤢𞥄𞤲𞤣𞤭 𞤃𞤢𞥄𞤤𞤭, Renndaandi Maali, ar, جمهورية م ...

Mali
and
Senegal Senegal (; french: link=no, Sénégal; Wolof language, Wolof: ''Senegaal''; Arabic language, Arabic: السنغال ''As-Sinighal''), officially the Republic of Senegal (french: link=no, République du Sénégal; Wolof language, Wolof: ''Réew ...

Senegal
. Flags containing red, white, and black (a subset of the
Pan-Arab colours The Pan-Arab colours are black Black is a color which results from the absence or complete absorption of visible light Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation within the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that can be ...
) can be found particularly among the Arab nations such as
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identi ...

Egypt
,
Iraq Iraq ( ar, الْعِرَاق, translit=al-ʿIrāq; ku, عێراق, translit=Êraq), officially the Republic of Iraq ( ar, جُمْهُورِيَّة ٱلْعِرَاق '; ku, کۆماری عێراق, translit=Komarî Êraq), is a country i ...

Iraq
,
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...

Syria
and
Yemen ) , image_map = Yemen on the globe (Yemen centered).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Sana'a Sanaa ( ar, صَنْعَاء, ' , Yemeni Arabic: ; Old South Arabian: 𐩮 ...

Yemen
. In modern times, influenced by European culture and discourse power, there has been a relatively unified design standard in the international flag design. In addition to the national traditional culture, there are many external factors that will affect the national flag design - such as Chinese culture and Chinese national flag, which obviously affect the national flags of Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Bhutan and other countries. The reasons affecting the design of the national flag are similar to the national emblem. Scholar Xiao Congrong classified the main reasons - (1) affected by the culture of the suzerain country / home country; (2) Influenced by the same ideology / influential foreign culture; (3) Influenced by the past regime of the country; (4) It is influenced by the interpretation of color by the understanding of international or European and the same cultural circle. Internationally, countries whose flag design has been influenced by the ideas of powerful countries such as Ottoman, Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States or the original suzerain countries span continents and ethnic groups, and the flag design of some adjacent countries will also affect each other. For example, since Peter the great learned the design of the Dutch tricolor flag in Russia, the surrounding Slavic countries and regions such as former Yugoslavia (Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia) and Bulgaria have been influenced by the design concept of the Russian flag. Therefore, the color of the Russian flag design has also become the source of the meaning of "Pan Slavic color". Many other similarities may be found among current national flags, particularly if inversions of colour schemes are considered, e.g., compare the
flag of Senegal The flag of Senegal Senegal (; french: link=no, Sénégal; Wolof language, Wolof: ''Senegaal''), officially the Republic of Senegal (french: link=no, République du Sénégal; Wolof language, Wolof: ''Réewum Senegaal''), is a country in West ...

flag of Senegal
to that of
Cameroon Cameroon (, french: Cameroun), officially the Republic of Cameroon (french: République du Cameroun, links=no), is a country in west 250px, A compass rose with west highlighted in black West or Occident is one of the four cardinal direc ...

Cameroon
and
Indonesia Indonesia ( ), officially the Republic of Indonesia ( id, Republik Indonesia, links=yes ), is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is t ...

Indonesia
to
Poland Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 Voivodeships of Poland, administrative provinces, covering an area of , and has a largely Temperate climate, temperate seasonal cli ...

Poland
and
Monaco Monaco (; ), officially the Principality of Monaco (french: Principauté de Monaco; Monégasque Ligurian: ''Prinçipatu de Mu̍negu''), is a sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The ...

Monaco
. Also the
flag of Italy The flag of Italy ( it, Bandiera d'Italia, ), often referred to in Italian as ''il Tricolore'' ( en, the Tricolour, ), is the national flag A national flag is a flag A flag is a piece of fabric A textile is a flexible material m ...

flag of Italy
and the
flag of Hungary The national flag of Hungary ( hu, Magyarország zászlaja) is a horizontal tricolour (flag), tricolour of red, white and green. In this exact form, it has been the official flag of Hungary since 23 May 1957. The flag's form originates from nat ...

flag of Hungary
use the same colours, although the order and direction differ (the Italian flag is vertical green-white-red and the Hungarian flag is horizontal red-white-green).


Flag families

While some similarities are coincidental, others are rooted in shared histories, known as a flag family. For example, the flags of
Colombia Colombia ( , ; ), officially the Republic of Colombia, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by conv ...

Colombia
, of
Ecuador Ecuador ( ; ; Quechua Quechua may refer to: *Quechua people, several indigenous ethnic groups in South America, especially in Peru *Quechuan languages, a Native South American language family spoken primarily in the Andes, derived from a ...

Ecuador
, and of
Venezuela Venezuela (; ), officially the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela ( es, link=no, República Bolivariana de Venezuela), is a country on the northern coast of South America, consisting of a continent A continent is any of several large l ...

Venezuela
all use variants of the
flag of Gran ColombiaThe flag of Gran Colombia was based on Francisco de Miranda's tricolour (flag), tricolour, which served as the national flag of the First Republic of Venezuela. The general design of the Gran Colombian flag later served as the model for the current f ...
, the country they composed upon their independence from Spain, created by the Venezuelan independence hero Francisco de Miranda; and the flags of Flag of Kuwait, Kuwait, of Flag of Jordan, Jordan, and of Flag of Palestine, Palestine are all highly similar variants of the Pan-Arab colors, flag of the Arab revolt of 1916–1918. The flags of
Romania Romania ( ; ro, România ) is a country at the crossroads of Central Central is an adjective usually referring to being in the center (disambiguation), center of some place or (mathematical) object. Central may also refer to: Directions ...

Romania
and Flag of Moldova, Moldova are virtually the same, because of the common history and heritage. Moldova adopted the Romanian flag during the declaration of independence from the Soviet Union, USSR in 1991 (and was used in various demonstrations and revolts by the population) and later the Moldovan coat of arms (which is part of the Coat of arms of Romania, Romanian coat of arms) was placed in the centre of the flag. All
Nordic countries The Nordic countries (also known as the Nordics or ''Norden''; lit. 'the North') are a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impac ...

Nordic countries
, with the exception of Flag of Greenland, Greenland, use the Nordic Cross flag, Nordic Cross design (
Iceland Iceland ( is, Ísland; ) is a Nordic Nordic most commonly refers to: * Nordic countries, written in plural as Nordics, the northwestern European countries, including Scandinavia, Fennoscandia and the List of islands in the Atlantic Ocean#N ...

Iceland
, Flag of Denmark, Denmark,
Norway Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway,Names in the official and recognised languages: Bokmål Bokmål (, ; literally "book tongue") is an official written standard for the Norwegian language Norwegian (Norwegian: ''norsk'') is a Nort ...

Norway
, Flag of Sweden, Sweden, Flag of Finland, Finland, in addition to the autonomous regions of the Flag of Faroe Islands, Faroe Islands and Flag of Åland, Åland), a horizontal cross shifted to the left on a single-coloured background. The
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country in . It consists of 50 , a , five major , 326 , and some . At , it is the world's . The United States shares significan ...

United States
and
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
both have red, white, and blue. This similarity is due to the fact that the first 13 states of the U.S. were formerly colonies of the United Kingdom. Also, Australia and New Zealand have very similar flags, which stems from their joint British heritage. Both of these flags feature the
Union Jack The Union Jack, or Union Flag, is the de facto national flag of the United Kingdom. Though no law has been passed officially making the Union Jack the national flag of the United Kingdom, it has effectively become the national flag through prec ...

Union Jack
in one corner, both have royal blue background, and both have the Southern Cross as a prominent feature. The only differences between these flags is that the Australian flag has the Commonwealth Star below the canton, and that on the New Zealand flag, just four stars in the Southern Cross are presented, and they are five-pointed red stars with white borders. On the other hand, all five stars of the Southern Cross are presented on the Australian flag, and they are white with seven points, except for the additional smaller fifth star in the Southern Cross which has only five points on this flag. Some similarities to the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country in . It consists of 50 , a , five major , 326 , and some . At , it is the world's . The United States shares significan ...

United States
flag with the red and white stripes are noted as well such as the flag of Malaysia and the flag of Liberia, the latter of which was an American resettlement colony. Similar Slavic Flags.png, Slavs, Slavic countries flag family. Former Federal Republic of Central America flags family.png, Former Federal Republic of Central America countries flags family.


See also

; Lists of flags *Lists of flags *Gallery of sovereign state flags *Gallery of flags of dependent territories *Timeline of national flags *List of flags by colour combination ; Other *Flag Day *Flag desecration *Flags of the World (website), Flags of the World *Flag protocol *Glossary of vexillology *National coat of arms *National emblem *
State flag In vexillology Vexillology () is the study of the history, symbolism and usage of s or, by extension, any interest in flags in general.Smith, Whitney. ''Flags Through the Ages and Across the World'' New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975. Print. The w ...


References


External links


Flags of the World
a massive online vexillology, vexillological database on national and many other kinds of flags
The World All Countries Flags
a website about national symbols
World Flag Database
reverse search for ID by colour and layout

for flag construction diagrams, flags of subnational entities, historical flags and country subdivisions
Extensive list of similar flags from around the world
{{DEFAULTSORT:National Flag National flags, Types of flags