Swallowtail (flag)

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A barn swallow in flight. Note the shape of its tail.

In flag terminology, a swallowtail is either

  1. a V-shaped cut in a flag that causes the flag to end in two points at the fly; or
  2. any flag which has this V-shaped cut.

The name comes from the forked tail that is a common feature of the swallow species of birds.



Common in Scandinavia, this swallowtail flag contains a vertical section in the centre of the fly.

Swallowtail with tongue[edit]

Also common in the Nordic countries, the swallowtail flag contains a third tail (the "tongue") between the other two tails.

Triangular swallowtail[edit]

This is the shape of the United States' state flag of Ohio, as well as some burgees, private signals and pennants of the International Code of Signals (ICS) use a triangular swallowtail shape.


A guidon is the general name given to a small swallowtail flag. Guidons are used to represent military units and are displayed on vehicles attached to a particular unit. In some countries (such as the United States), guidons do not necessarily have a swallow tail.

The military use of the guidon originated from the flags used by cavalry units in Europe. A variant of the guidon – the hussar cut – was used by German cavalry regiments. Instead of a straight V-shaped cut, the swallowtail in a hussar cut flag was curved.