Silver’s Word of the Week – Vexillology

Welcome to Silver’s Word of the Week where I try to find strange and unusual words to ignite our vocabulary to new levels! Are you ready to learn a new word?

This week our word is VEXILLOLOGY and is courtesy of

Since the news the last couple of weeks has been so dismal, I thought it was time for some fun… new words are always interesting and this one caught my eye.

Tell me the truth! Who do you think of when you hear the word ‘vexillology?’ Of course! Sheldon Cooper, from the hit television series, The Big Bang Theory!

I found conflicting information on how many flags there are in the world. One answer told me 231 flags, another said 197. This source seemed to be the most reliable:

Did YOU Know?

Word Origin and History for vexillology: n. 1959, from Latin vexillum “flag” + -ology. explains the history of flags:

“Flag is a word of Teutonic (Germanic) origin used from the 15th to the 16th centuries in various northern European languages to signify a piece of cloth, bunting, or similar material that displayed the insignia of a community, an armed force, an office, or an individual.

Originally, flags were used primarily in warfare; and to some extent, they remain the insignia of leadership, serving for identification of friend and foe, and as rallying points.

Flags are now also extensively used for signaling, for decoration, and for display.

Since the usefulness of flags is for purposes of identification, they must be made of materials that allow them to “fly” freely.

The earliest insignia used in battles were not flags but they are usually described as standards.

Ancient standards were made of some solid object fixed on a bracket at the top of a pole, sometimes with streamers attached.

The objects displayed were usually a sacred symbol; of the four standards carried before the kings of ancient Egypt, for example, one is claimed to have represented the king’s placenta.

Other variants may have been the display (as in China) of the head of an enemy.

This might be the origin of the Greek custom of bearing a helmet or other piece of armor on a spear point.

The various Greek cities had more distinctive signs; such as, a sphinx or a Pegasus, and the Romans continued the process by using the effigies of gods, of generals, or of animals (wolves, horses, eagles, and bears).

According to Pliny, it was G. Marius who, in his second consulship, ordered that the Roman legions should have only the eagle as the standard.

The vexillum, or Roman cavalry flag, was closer to a flag in the modern sense and it is still used in ecclesiastical ceremonies.

It is described by Livy as a square piece of cloth fastened to a bar fixed crosswise on a spearhead.

This description is confirmed on Roman coins, medals, and sculptures.

The vexillium may have had special appeal for Christian Churches because it was cruciform.

Used in both Latin and Byzantine religious processions, the ecclesiastical banner has an unbroken continuity with ancient Rome.”

There you have it! Everything you wanted to know about flags! Have a great week!


  1. Very educational, flags are important because everyone on this world lives under one, sometimes more than one. My state flag has a grizzly bear on it, which is the only place where you’ll find a grizzly in California (the last real one was spotted in 1924).

    Liked by 1 person

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