Originating on battlefields as a means of identification, national flags have come a long way since their bloody conception. Flying in courthouses, classrooms, and fire stations they typically hold symbolic significance for the nation and have complex meanings ingrained into their designs. So go ahead and test yourself on your flag knowledge because these are 25 national flags and their meanings.
Combining the crosses of the patron saints of England, Wales, and Scotland, the Union Jack as it is sometimes called is one of the oldest flags in the world having been around since 1801.
It has been said that when Duke Leopold V. of Austria returned from war his white battledress was soaked with blood. When he took off his belt, however, the cloth underneath was still white. Some will tell you to this day that this is what inspired the red and white stripes. At any rate, this flag is one of the few that are older than the Union Jack as it dates back to the year 1230.
There is a lot of dispute as to actual meaning of Aruba’s flag. Some say that the four pointed star represents the four main languages of the island, Papiamento, Spanish, English, and Dutch. The light blue is generally said to represent the sea and sky and the meaning of the yellow stripes has been up for debate with some theories proposing it has to do with Aruba’s gold industry while others claim the yellow stands for freedom or abundance.
As you may have noticed, the red circle on the flag is slightly off center. This is so that when the flag is flying on a mast it will appear to be in the middle. The green symbolized the country of Bangladesh with its green geography and youthfulness while the red symbolizes the rising sun and the sacrifices its citizens have made.
As the first African country to receive its independence, Ethiopia is often credited with the establishing green, yellow, and red (sometimes called the Pan African colors) that now symbolize African independence and unity.
It’s not hard to see that Malaysia has a history with England. The blue square in the upper left originally signified that connection. The 14 stripes represent the 13 member states and the federal district of Kuala Lumpur.
The green stripes represent Nigeria’s lush vegetation and its agriculture industry while the white stripe represents the desire for peace.
Also known as the “Maple Leaf Flag”, the maple leaf wasn’t actually added until many years later when Prime Minister Lester Pearson petitioned to have it included as during World War I he noticed many battalions including a maple leaf on their insignia.
With the white cross representing Christianity, the Danish flag is said to be the oldest flag in the world. According to legend it fell from the sky on June 15, 1219 when King Waldemar II defeated the Estonians in battle.
Although the country has changed its name twice, the flag has remained the same. The blue symbolized peace and endurance, the red courage, and the white honor. The cogwheel and ears of rice represent the country’s agricultural industry and its workers.
Sometimes referred to as the “Stars and Stripes”, or “Old Glory” the American flag features 13 stripes representing the original colonies and 50 stars representing the states in the union.
Known as the “French Tricolore” it is based on a red, white, and blue cockade that King Louis XVI wore while addressing a revolutionary gathering in Paris.
While the Greek flag has stayed largely the same, the shade of blue has changed numerous times since the Greek Revolutionary War against the Ottoman Turks.
Although the colors have no official meaning the red, green, and black are derived from Nelson Mandela’s political party, the African National Congress, and the former Boer Republics. The Y shape is said to reference the convergence of cultures in the nation.
As one of the more unique country flags, this one was designed by a high school art teacher. The sun signifies the dawning of a new era after gaining its independence, the red represents the energy of the people, and the blue signifies hope.