The Vexillum: The Original Vexilloid

Vexillology: The study of flags.  Coined by Whitney Smith in 1957, as a combination of the Latin word Vexillum and the Greek suffix -ology.

Vexillum (pl. vexilla):  In ancient Rome, a square military banner hung from a crossbeam carried on a staff.   It’s the diminutive of velum (“sail”), itself derived from Proto-Indo-European *weg- (to weave a web) or *weǵʰ- (to ride), thus “that which propels”.

Vexilloid: Another term coined by Whitney Smith, which he defined as “an object which functions as a flag but differs from it in some respect, usually appearance. Vexilloids are characteristic of traditional societies and often consist of a staff with an emblem, such as a carved animal, at the top.”  Smith derived the word from one of its primary examples, the vexillum.

(For more about flag-related terminology, check out “Let’s raise the flag to the word Vexillology” on Bill Casselman’s Words of the World blog.)

Here’s the oldest (and only) surviving vexillum:

Vexillum-Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.png
The only extant Roman vexillum, 3rd century AD. Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Russia. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

One thought on “The Vexillum: The Original Vexilloid

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s