Erasure in blazonry, the language of heraldry, is the tearing off of part of a charge, leaving a jagged edge of it remaining. Due to the usual construction of blazons, this is most often found in its adjectival form (i.e., erased), usually applied to animate charges, most often used of heads but sometimes other body parts. When a tree or other plant is shown uprooted (with the bare roots showing), it is eradicated. The terms erased and eradicated are not only visually similar treatments of animate and inanimate charges, but these words are also cognates, both derived from French arraché.
The term erased is most often used of an animal's head, when the neck is depicted with a ragged edge as if forcibly torn from the body. Erased heads are distinct from those couped, in that the former are cut off along a jagged line while the latter are cut off along a straight line.
John Craig's dictionary of 1854 says:
In Heraldry, anything is said to be erased which appears forcibly torn off, leaving the edges jagged and uneven.
Forms of erasure
There are different traditions for the erasing of heads. For instance, with the head of a bear, whether couped or erased, in English heraldry the separation is done horizontally under the neck, which is not lost, whereas in Scottish heraldry the usual practice is for the head to be separated from the body vertically, without keeping the neck attached to it.
- James Parker, A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry (1894; new edition by James Parker and Company, Oxford, 2004)
- Thomas Woodcock, John Martin Robinson, The Oxford Guide to Heraldry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-19-211658-4), p. 200
- John Craig', A new universal, technological, etymological, and pronouncing dictionary of the English language (vol. 1, 1854), p. 656
- Charles Boutell, Heraldry (F. Warne, 1950), p. 71