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Vexillology is the scientific study of the history, symbolism and usage of flags or, by extension, any interest in flags in general.[1] The word is a synthesis of the Latin word vexillum ("flag") and the Greek suffix -logia ("study"). The constitution of the International Federation of Vexillological Associations (known by its French acronym, FIAV) formally defines vexillology as "the creation and development of a body of knowledge about flags of all types, their forms and functions, and of scientific theories and principles based on that knowledge."[2]

A person who studies flags is a vexillologist, one who designs flags is a vexillographer, and the art of flag-designing is called vexillography. One who is a hobbyist or general admirer of flags is called a vexillophile.


The study of flags, or vexillology, was formalized by the U.S. scholar and student of flags Whitney Smith in 1957. He has organized various flag organizations and meetings including the first International Congress of Vexillology, the North American Vexillological Association, and International Federation of Vexillological Associations.[3] Smith, acknowledged as the inventor of the term 'vexillology' in 1957, wrote "While the use of flags goes back to the earliest days of human civilization, the study of that usage in a serious fashion is so recent that the term for it (vexillology, coined by the author of this book) did not appear in print until 1959."[4] Before this time, study of flags was generally considered a part of heraldry.

Since 1965, an International Congress of Vexillology (ICV) has been organized every two years under the auspices of FIAV. The 2017 ICV was held in London[5].

Involvement in vexillology includes academic work in fields such as sociology, history or design, professional or otherwise, contributions from the flag industry, and interest from those simply passionate about flags. ICV and local vexillological meetings often cover a wide range of interest in flags. The internet has facilitated wider discussion of vexillology. One of the earliest online flag groups, Flags of the World, has compiled a large online database of flag knowledge.

Popular culture[edit]

In a recurring segment of the CBS show, The Big Bang Theory, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, played by Jim Parsons, produces a video series on the subject of vexillology called Fun with Flags with Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Wil Wheaton and LeVar Burton have guest-starred on the segment as themselves.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smith, Whitney. Flags Through the Ages and Across the World New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975. Print.
  2. ^ International Federation of Vexillological Associations
  3. ^ Vulliamy, Elsa (December 15, 2015). "Which flag is it? Take our quiz to find out". Retrieved March 13, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Vexillology". Retrieved 2017-11-03. 
  5. ^ "ICV27 - London 2017". 27th International Congress of Vexillology. ICV. Retrieved 9 August 2017. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Leepson, Marc. Flag: An American Biography. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2005.
  • Smith, Whitney. Flags Through the Ages and Across the World. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975.

External links[edit]