Bend (heraldry)

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"Bendy" redirects here. For other uses, see Bendy (disambiguation).
For other uses, see Bar sinister (disambiguation).
Azure, a bend or, possibly the most famous bend in heraldic history, which was the subject of one of the earliest cases in heraldic law in England, Scrope v. Grosvenor (1389)

In heraldry, a bend is a band or strap running from the upper dexter (the bearer's right side and the viewer's left) corner of the shield to the lower sinister (the bearer's left side, and the viewer's right). Authorities differ as to how much of the field it should cover, ranging from one-fifth (if shown between other charges) up to one-third (if charged alone). The supposed rule that a bend should occupy a maximum of one-third of the field appears to exclude the possibility of two or three bends being shown together, but contrary examples exist.[citation needed] Outside of heraldry, the term "bend (or bar) sinister" is sometimes used to imply ancestral illegitimacy.

Modified bends[edit]

A bend can be modified by most of the lines of partition, such as the bend engrailed in the ancient arms of Fortescue or in the more modern examples of Cleethorpes Borough Council, England, and the bend wavy in the ancient coat of Wallop, Earls of Portsmouth of the modern Picard, Canada.

Bend sinister and "bar sinister"[edit]

Argent, a bend sinister gules

The usual bend is occasionally called a bend dexter when it needs to contrast with the bend sinister, which runs in the other direction, like a sash worn diagonally from the left shoulder (Latin sinister means left).

The bend sinister and its diminutives such as the Baton sinister are rare as an independent motif; they occur more often as marks of distinction, added to another coat to denote bastardy. For example, Arthur Plantagenet, 1st Viscount Lisle (d.1542), illegitimate son of Edward IV of England, bore the arms of the House of York with a bendlet sinister overall.

It appears in more modern examples such as the arms of Lincolnshire County Council, England, and The Corporation of the Township of McNab/Braeside, Canada.

In French blazon a bend sinister is called a barre. Sir Walter Scott is credited with giving literature the macaronic phrase bar sinister, which has become a metonymic term for bastardy. In English blazon a bar is a horizontal stripe, symmetric with respect to sinister and dexter. (Bar and barre are pronounced alike.)

Though its stripe runs in the opposite direction (heraldically dexter rather than sinister) the modern ISO No symbol, consisting of a red circle with a red diagonal stripe, performs a function analogous to a mark of distinction in modern signage, indicating that whatever it overprinted on is prohibited (e.g. No Smoking No smoking symbol.svg).

Diminutive forms[edit]

The diminutives of the bend, being narrower versions, are as follows, in descending order of width:

  • Bendlet: One-half as wide as a bend, as in the coat of Vincent Leonard Knight, and in the coat of Manchester City Council, England. A bendlet couped is also known as a baton,[1] as in the coat of Elliot of Stobs (Public Register volume 1, page 144).
  • Cotise: One-fourth the width of a bend; it appears only in pairs, one on either side (French: coté) of a bend, in which case the bend is said to be cotised as in the ancient arms of Fortescue and Bohun and in the more modern arms of John Stewart Archibald LeForte, and Hyndburn Borough Council, England.
  • Riband or ribbon: Also one-fourth the width of a bend. It is also called a cost as in the coat of Abernethie of Auchincloich (Or, a lion rampant gules surmounted of a cost sable, all within a bordure engrailed azure — first and fourth quarters) (Public Register volume 1, page 69).
  • Scarp (or Scarf): the diminutive of the bend sinister, as in the coat of Russ Wayne Copping.


In bend[edit]

Arms of Northcote: Argent, three crosses-crosslet in bend sable[2]

The phrase in bend refers to the appearance of several items on the shield being lined up in the direction of a bend, as in the arms of the ancient Northcote family of Devon: Argent, three crosses-crosslet in bend sable.[3] It is also used when something is slanted in the direction of a bend, as in the coat of Surrey County Council,[4] England.


A charge bendwise is slanted like a bend, as in the Canadian coat of Barry Lereng Wilmont. When a charge is placed on a bend, by default it is shown bendwise, as in the coat of Wilmslow Urban District Council, England.

Party per bend[edit]

A shield party per bend (or simply per bend) is divided into two parts by a single line which runs in the direction of a bend, as in the coat of Michael George Levy. Applies not only to the fields of shields but also to charges.


Arms of the first house of Burgundy: Bendy or and azure, a bordure gules

Bendy is a variation of the field consisting (usually) of an even number of parts,[1] most often six; as in the coat of the duchy of Burgundy.

Analogous terms are derived from the bend sinister: per bend sinister, bendwise sinister, bendy sinister.



In current sovereign flags[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Boutell, Charles (1914). Fox-Davies, A.C., ed. Handbook to English Heraldry, The (11th ed.). London: Reeves & Turner. pp. 58–59. 
  2. ^ Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.604
  3. ^ Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.604
  4. ^ [1]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]