Meaning and Description of Coat of Arms Symbols

Written by jennifer vanbaren
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Meaning and Description of Coat of Arms Symbols
A tree symbol is used on a coat of arms to represent new life sprouting from old life. (Tree symbol image by patrimonio designs from

A coat of arms is a heraldic design consisting of a shield containing different symbols. This shield contains a symbolic meaning for a family, a person or an organisation. These designs were popular in England and Ireland and date back to the mid-12th Century. A coat of arms is distinguished in its colour, designs and symbols.

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A coat of arms often contains colours. Each colour has a particular meaning. The colour yellow or gold represents generosity and elevation of the mind. White or silver represents peace and sincerity. Red represents military strength, blue stands for truth and loyalty and green represents hope, joy and loyalty in love. Other colours used are black, which stands for grief, purple represents majesty and orange is a colour of worthy ambition. The colours used on a coat of arms each represent some time of virtue. When a coat of arms is created, the colours used are chosen carefully.


Lines are another part of a coat of arms that contain meanings. Lines that are engrailed represent the earth or land. Wavy or dancing lines represent some type of water. If a line is indented in some way there is a meaning of fire within the coat of arms.

Marks of Cadency Symbols

Many coats of arms have symbols known as marks of cadence. These symbols are used to indicate different branches within one family. These marks represent the order of sons being born. The first born son is represented with a label. A crescent marks the second son and a mullet the third. There is a particular symbol for each son through the ninth.


A coat of arms contains many different symbols. In fact, there are hundreds of different pictures used to illustrate different meanings. Several popular pictures used are a cherub, cornucopia, horseshoe and bear. A cherub means glory and honour, which is an important virtue to families. A cornucopia represents bounty of nature. This was a common picture used centuries ago because being plentiful was also an honourable and grateful aspect in life. The horseshoe is a picture used to represent good luck. It also was a symbol that was thought to be a safeguard against evil spirits. A picture of a bear means strength and ferocity.

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