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This article is about the insignia/symbol. For other uses, see Roundel (disambiguation).
The Tricolore cockade of the French Air Force was the first roundel used on combat aircraft

A roundel is a circular disc used as a symbol. The term is used in heraldry but also commonly used to refer to a type of national insignia used on military aircraft, generally circular in shape and usually comprising concentric rings of different colours. Other symbols also often use round shapes.


Main article: Roundel (heraldry)

In heraldry, a roundel is a circular charge. Roundels are among the oldest charges used in coats of arms, dating from at least the twelfth century. Roundels in British heraldry have different names depending on their tincture.[1] Thus, while a roundel may be blazoned by its tincture, e.g., a roundel vert (literally "a roundel green"), it is more often described by a single word, in this case pomme (literally "apple", from the French) or, from the same origins, pomeis—as in "Vert; on a cross Or five pomeis" (Scottish Public Register vol. 32, p. 26).

One special example of a named roundel is the fountain, depicted as a roundel barry wavy argent and azure, that is, containing alternating horizontal wavy bands of blue and silver (or white).

Military aircraft[edit]

The French Air Service originated the use of roundels on military aircraft during the First World War.[2] The chosen design was the French national cockade, whose colours are the blue-white-red of the Flag of France. Similar national cockades, with different ordering of colours, were designed and adopted as aircraft roundels by their allies, including the British Royal Flying Corps and the United States Army Air Service. After the First World War, many other air forces adopted roundel insignia, distinguished by different colours or numbers of concentric rings.

Military aircraft insignia, such as that of the Philippine Air Force and the Polish szachownica, are often called roundels even when they are not round.[citation needed]


Among flags which display a roundel are the flag of Bangladesh and the flag of Japan.

Flags for British overseas dependencies are often a British Blue Ensign defaced with a white roundel displaying the arms or badge of the dependency. The same pattern is used for some of the states of Australia.

Corporate use[edit]

Some corporations and other organizations also make use of roundels in their branding; employing them as a trademark, or logo.

In popular culture[edit]

The Who logo incorporates the roundel symbol used by mods
  • The roundel, especially that used by the Royal Air Force, has been associated with pop art of the 1960s, appearing in paintings by Jasper Johns. It became part of the pop consciousness when British rock group The Who wore RAF roundels (and Union Flags) as part of their stage apparel at the start of their career. Subsequently it came to symbolise Mods and the Mod revival.
  • Some of Paul Weller's material involves the use of a roundel in psychedelic colours.
  • Ben Harper's album Fight For Your Mind uses roundels from several air forces as graphics in the liner notes.
  • In the British television series Doctor Who, the circular decorations on the interior walls of the TARDIS control room are known as roundels.[3]


Military aircraft roundels[edit]

Corporate logo roundels[edit]

Corporate logos incorporating roundels include London Underground, Target, BMW, Volkswagen, and the Winnipeg Jets NHL team.

Political roundels[edit]

Some political organizations also use roundels for their logos.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles (1909). A Complete Guide to Heraldry. p. 151. 
  2. ^ Royal Air Force Museum
  3. ^ Russell, Gary (2006). Doctor Who: The Inside Story. London: BBC Books. p. 86. ISBN 0-563-48649-X. 


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