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Variation of the field

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Variation of the field

In heraldry, variations of the field are any of a number of ways that a field (or a charge) may be covered with a pattern, rather than a flat tincture or a simple division of the field.


  • Patterning with ordinaries and subordinaries 1
    • Barry, Paly, Bendy 1.1
    • Chequy 1.2
    • Lozengy, Fusilly, Masculy and Rustré 1.3
    • Gyronny 1.4
    • Variations of Lines 1.5
  • Fretty and Trellisé 2
  • Semé 3
  • Tapissé of wheat 4
  • Honeycomb 5
  • Masoned 6
  • Pappellony 7
  • Pied at random 8
  • Folds 9
  • Diapering 10
  • Notes 11
  • References 12

Patterning with ordinaries and subordinaries

The diminutives of the ordinaries are frequently employed to vary the field.

Any of these patterns may be counterchanged by the addition of a division line; for example, barry argent and azure, counterchanged per fess or checquy Or and gules, counterchanged per chevron.

Barry, Paly, Bendy

A shield paly argent and gules
A shield barry of ten argent and gules
A shield bendy azure and argent
A shield bendy sinister sable and argent
A shield Chevronny Or and gules

When the field is patterned with an even number of horizontal (fesswise) stripes, this is described as barry e.g. of six or eight, usually of a colour and metal specified, e.g. barry of six argent and gules (this implies that the chiefmost piece is argent). More rarely, a barry field can be of two colours or two metals. (The arms of the Kingdom of Hawai'i show a very unusual example of barry of three different tinctures, and there are even more exceptional examples of barry of a single tincture, as in the arms of Kempten on the Zurich roll,[2] or barry of five as in the arms of Jodhpur.[1]) The arms of Eyfelsberg zum Wehr provide a perhaps unique example of barry of four different tinctures that do not repeat.[2] With ten or more pieces, the field is described as barruly.

A field having the appearance of a number of narrow piles throughout issuing from the dexter of sinister flanks is barry pily.

Composed of pallets, the field is paly; of bendlets, bendy; in a bend-sinister-wise fashion (of skarpes, the diminutive in England of the bend sinister), bendy sinister; of chevronels, chevronny.

In modern practice the number of pieces is nearly always even. A shield of thirteen vertical stripes, alternating argent and gules, would not be paly of thirteen, argent and gules, but argent, six pallets gules. (This is the lower portion of the shield on the Great Seal of the United States of America. The incorrect blazon is usually used anyway, to preserve the reference to the thirteen original colonies, and this form is occasionally imitated allusively.[3]) One unusual design is described in part as bendy of three though, as each third is again divided, the effect is of a six-part division.[4]

If no number of pieces is specified, it may be left up to the heraldic artist (but is still an even number).

An instance of a fess... paly Sable, Argent, [Bleu] Celeste and Or occurs in the arms of the 158th Quartermaster Battalion of the United States Army,[5] although this is atypical terminology and it could be argued that the fess should be blazoned as "per pale, in dexter per pale Sable and Argent, and in sinister per pale Bleu Celeste and Or".

In the modern arms of the Count of Schwarzburg, the quarters are divided by a cross bendy of three tinctures.

When the shield is divided by lines both palewise and bendwise, with the pieces coloured alternately like a chess board, this is paly-bendy; if the diagonal lines are reversed, paly-bendy sinister;[6] if horizontal rather than vertical lines are used, barry-bendy; and mutatis mutandis, barry-bendy sinister.

A field which seems to be composed of a number of triangular pieces is barry bendy and bendy sinister.


A shield chequy gules and argent

When divided by palewise and fesswise lines into a chequered pattern, the field is chequy. Croatia is widely known by its chequy coat-of-arms.[7][8][9] The arms of "Bleichröder, banker to Bismarck,"[10] show chequy fimbriated (the chequers being divided by thin lines). The arms of the 85th Air Division (Defense) of the United States Air Force show "a checky grid" on part of the field, though this is to be distinguished from "chequy".[11] The number of chequers is generally indeterminate, though the fess in the arms of Robert Stewart, Lord of Lorn, they are blazoned as being "of four tracts" (in four horizontal rows);[12] and in arms of Toledo, fifteen chequers are specified. The number of vertical rows can also be specified. When a bend or bend sinister, or one of their diminutives, is chequy, the chequers follow the direction of the bend unless otherwise specified. James Parker cites the French term equipolle to mean chequy of nine, though mentions that this is identical to a cross quarter-pierced (strangely, this is blazoned as "a Latin square chequy of nine" in the arms of the Statistical Society of Canada).[13] He also gives the arms of Prospect as an unusual example of chequy, "Chequy in perspective argent and sable";[14] this must be distinguished from cubes as a charge.[15] Chequy is not "fanciable"; that is, the lines of chequy cannot be modified by lines of partition.[16]

Lozengy, Fusilly, Masculy and Rustré

A shield lozengy argent and gules

When the shield is divided by both bendwise and bendwise-sinister lines, creating a field of lozenges (again coloured like a chessboard), the result is lozengy. (But generally lozengy is depicted with the lozenges narrower in width than would be bendy bendy-sinister, which at least in theory would be a different field.) Lozengy in the field must be distinguished from an ordinary such as a bend which is blazoned of one tincture and called "lozengy"; this means that the ordinary is entirely composed of lozenges, touching at their obtuse corners. (The arms of Bavaria have occasionally been blazoned and emblazoned as lozengy fesswise; that is, with the narrower axis of the component lozenges vertically rather than horizontally oriented. Similarly, Landkreis Erding adopted arms with a chief bendy lozengy,[17] and the arms of Crofts of Dalton in Lancashire, England are Bendy lozengy argent and sable.[18]) In paly bendy the bendwise lines are supposed to be less acute than in plain lozengy.[19])

Part of the field of the arms of the 544th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group of the United States Air Force is lozengy in perspective.[20]

A field fusilly can be very difficult to distinguish from a field lozengy (in early days no clear distinction was made between lozenges and fusils); the fusil is supposed to be proportionately narrower than the lozenge, and the bendwise and bendwise-sinister lines are therefore more steeply sloped.

A field masculy is composed entirely of mascles; that is, lozenges pierced with a lozenge shape – this creates a solid fretwork surface and is to be distinguished from a field fretty.

An extremely rare, possibly unique example of a field rustré - counterchanged rustres - occurs in Canadian heraldry in the arms of R.C. Purdy Chocolates Ltd.[21]


A shield that is divided quarterly and per saltire, forming eight triangular pieces, is gyronny. Possibly the best known example is the arms of the ancient Scottish family of Campbell: Gyronny of eight or and sable, borne most notably by the Duke of Argyll.[22] The first tincture in the blazon is that of the triangle in dexter chief. (There are apparently very rare examples in which gyronny is of more than two tinctures such as the arms of Origo of Milan: Gyronny, sable, argent, vert, sable, argent, vert, sable, vert.)[23] Gyronny can also have a different number of pieces than eight; for example, Sir William Stokker, Lord Mayor of London, had a field gyronny of six; there may be gyronny of ten or twelve, and the arms of Clackson provide an example of gyronny of sixteen.

Gyronny of sixteen in the arms of Clackson

(There cannot be gyronny of four, as that would be either per saltire or quarterly, or three, as that would be tierced in pairle or tierced in pairle reversed.) While the gyrons of gyronny almost invariably meet in the fess point (the exact centre of the shield) the arms of the University of Zululand are an unusual example of gyronny meeting in the nombril point (a point on the shield midway between the fess point and the base point). Gyronny can be modified by (most of) the lines of partition (there would be exceptions such as dancetty and angled).[24]

Gyronny of six pieces may be blazoned mal-gironné (badly gyronny), as in the canting arms of Maugiron.

Variations of Lines

Any of the division lines composing the variations of the field above may be blazoned with most of the different line shapes; e.g. paly nebuly of six, Or and sable. One very common use of this is barry wavy azure and argent; this is often used to represent either water or a body of water in general, or the sea in particular, though there are other if less commonly used methods of representing the sea, including in a more naturalistic manner.

Fretty and Trellisé

A field fretty is composed of bendlets and bendlets-sinister or "scarps", interleaved over one another to give the impression of a trellis. Although almost invariably the bendlets and scarpes are of the same tincture, there is an example in which they are of two different metals.[25] (It is rare for the number of pieces of the fretty to be specified, though this is sometimes done in French blazon.) (The bendlets and bendlets sinister are very rarely other than straight, as in the arms of David Robert Wooten, in which they are raguly.) Objects can be placed in the position of the bendlets and bendlets sinister and described as "fretty of," as in the arms of the Muine Bheag Town Commissioners: "Party per fess or fretty of blackthorn branches leaves proper and ermine, a fess wavy azure". Square fretty is similarly composed of barrulets and pallets.[26]

Trellisé appears in the arms of Luc-Normand Tellier, where it consists of "bendlets, bendlets sinister and barrulets" interlaced.[27] [These are not, strictly speaking, variations of the field, since they are depicted as being on the field rather than in it.]


Ancient arms of France: Azure, semy-de-lis Or.

When the field (or a charge) is described as semé or semy of a sub-ordinary or other charge, it is depicted as being strewn over with many copies of that charge. Semé is regarded as part of the field.[28]

To avoid confusion with a simple use of a large number of the same charge (e.g. Azure, fifteen fleurs-de-lis Or), the charges semé are ideally depicted cut off at the edge of the field, though in olden depictions this is often not the case. An example of this can be found in the Coat of arms of Denmark, which now features three lions among nine hearts, but older versions depicted three leopards on a semy of hearts, the number of which varied and was not fixed at nine until 1819. There are also some exceptions to this however, as with some bordures, which depict a discrete number (often eight) of the charge. One such device as that of Jesus College, Cambridge, which despite a blazon of "seme" is invariably depicted with the "crowns Golde" on its bordure as indistinguishable from being charged with either eight or ten crowns. A large number (usually eight) of any one charge arranged as if upon an invisible bordure is said to be in orle, an orle being a diminutive band within the bordure.[29]

Arms of Jesus College, Cambridge

Most small charges can be depicted as semé, e.g. semé of roses, semé of estoiles, and so forth. In English heraldry, several types of small charges have special terms to refer to their state as semé:

  • semé of cross-crosslets: crusily
  • semé of fleurs-de-lis: semé-de-lis
  • semé of bezants: bezanté
  • semé of plates: platé
  • semé of billets: billeté
  • semé of annulets: annulletty
  • semé of sparks: étincellé;
  • semé of guttae: gouttée.
  • semé of torteaux (roundels gules): tortelly

When a field semé is of a metal, the charges strewn on it must be of a colour, and vice versa. The charges semé do not affect the tinctures available for the major charges: they follow the rule of tincture just as they would if the field were not semé.

The arms of the House of Nassau are "Azure, billetty or, a lion rampant or, armed and langued gules." Consequently, the billetty field appears on the current coat of arms of the Netherlands and on the personal coat of arms of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg.

The arms of Hockin are "Per fesse wavy gules and azure; [in chief] a lion passant gardant or, beneath the feet a musket lying horizontally proper; [the base] semy of fleurs-de-lis confusedly dispersed of the third," alluding to an incident in which Thomas Hockin caused the French to scatter.[30]

The 1995-2002 arms of Rogaška Slatina, Slovenia show Vert, semee of Disks Or, decreasing in size from base to chief.[31]

The heraldic furs of the ermine family appear to be semé of the "ermine dots," but they are not counted as such; but fields semy of ermine spots are, as in the coat of Wrexham County Borough Council.

Tapissé of wheat

A field tapissé of wheat is entirely covered by an interlocking stylised pattern looking like a wheat field.[32]


Arms of the Spanish Army Maintenance Directorate: Purpure, papellony Or, a helmet in profile Argent.

The town of Viļāni, Latvia, has part of its field honeycombed.[33] Another example of this is in the arms of Fusagasugá, Cundinamarca, Colombia.[34]


Arms of Castile.

A field or ordinary masoned shows a pattern like that of a brick wall. An example of this can be found in the Coat of arms of Castile. This can be "proper" or of a named tincture. The tincture refers to the cracks between the stones, the stones being transparent: a wall of red bricks with white mortar is thus gules masoned argent.[35]


A field pappellony shows an overlay of a pattern like the wings of a butterfly, though this is accounted a fur.[36] (The number of rows of pappellony are sometimes defined, such as the seven of the Aleberici Family of Bologna.) The shield of Chateaubriand shows an instance of the pappellony of the ancient arms being transformed into seme-de-lys in the new coat. The Italian term squamoso and the French écaillé, meaning 'scaly',[37] are also similar.

Pied at random

Used in some South-African coats, this means patterned like the markings of a bull or cow. There is at least one example that is more elaborately blazoned.[38]


The arms of the Special Troops Battalion of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division of the United States Army has the unique field Per pale Sable and Gules with stylized folds Sanguine, the sinister half of the field symbolizing a warrior's cape.


Diapering of the field of the shield of the Diocese of Worcester: Argent, ten torteaux four three two and one

Diapering (covering areas of flat colour with a tracery design when depicting arms) is not considered a variation of the field; it is not specified in blazon, being a decision of the individual artist. A coat depicted with diapering is considered the same as a coat drawn from the same blazon but depicted without diapering.


  1. ^ "JODHPUR". Retrieved 2007-07-05. 
  2. ^ A Treatise on Heraldry, British and Foreign: With English and French Glossaries. p. 669. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ The Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada - Heraldry
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Carter, David E.; Stephens, Suzanna M. W. The Big Book of Logos 5, Collins Design, 2008, ISBN 0-06-125574-2
  8. ^ Stephenson, Keith; Hampshire, Mark. Squares, Checks, and Grids, Communicating With Pattern, RotoVision, 2008, ISBN 978-2-940361-82-3
  9. ^ Busch, Akiko (Editor) Design for Sports: The Cult of Performance, 1st ed., Princeton Architectural Press, 1998, ISBN 1-56898-145-7
  10. ^ Jewish Heraldry
  11. ^ Factsheets : 85 Air Division (Defense)
  12. ^ JAG - Differencing - 6
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ – see footnote 16
  17. ^ Erding County (Germany)
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ The Institute of Heraldry. "544th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissaince Group". 
  21. ^ The Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada - R.C. Purdy Chocolates Ltd.
  22. ^ Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.75
  23. ^ A Treatise on Heraldry, British and Foreign: With English and French Glossaries. p. 95. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ The Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada - Heraldry
  26. ^
  27. ^ The Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada - Heraldry
  28. ^ Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles (2004). A Complete Guide to Heraldry. Kessinger Publishing. p. 101.  
  29. ^ "Orle". Pimbley's Dictionary of Heraldry. Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  30. ^ ;
  31. ^ The FAME: Slovenia - Communities, part 14 (Raz-Sev)
  32. ^ The Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada - Heraldry
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ The Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada - Peter John Crabtree
  36. ^ Forgotten Sea Heraldry
  37. ^ Medieval Italian Heraldry - Regalis
  38. ^ Municipal Heraldry - South Africa


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