Confused by certain flag-related vocabulary? Here are several definitions of common flag terminology.
Several flag related- words and terminology can be quite confusing, even to those who know their flags! Check out these definitions to some common flag vocabulary.
- The Union of a Flag – The Union is the blue field in the upper left hand corner of the American flag that houses all 50 stars. This is commonly referred to in several Flag Etiquette guides since the Union should face a certain direction depending on how it’s displayed.
- Half-Staff – This term is used when a flag is flying midway between the top peak and the bottom of a flagpole on land. Flying a flag at half-staff is a great honor and is usually done on specific holidays or after an important public figure dies.
- Half-Mast – This term is often used interchangeably with half-staff when in fact they have different meanings in the USA. Half-mast means a US flag is flying midway between the summit and the bottom of a flagpole on a ship. Internationally, half-mast is used to refer to flying a lowered flag on land as well. Read more on the difference of Half-Staff vs. Half-Mast.
- Retiring a flag – Once a flag is unfit to fly, it should be retired. This means it is destroyed in an honorable way, usually by burning it. Flag retirement ceremonies are common and have their own sets of etiquette.
- The Halyard – The halyard is the rope the flag is attached to, used for raising and lowering a flag from its pole. There are right and wrong ways to rig a halyard to the pole.