Heraldic Charges

The Meaning of Symbols on a Family Crest/Coat of Arms

There are literally hundreds of different symbols (or charges) that can appear on coats of arms. The colors that are chosen and even the shape of the shield itself can have significance for the Family, Clan or Sept that was to bear the arms.

The explanations below are offered as the general interpretation of what this symbolism signifies. It is true though, that an individual coat of arms may have a history to it that far exceeds the meanings given here and that further investigation may be necessary.

Nevertheless, the art of heraldry has broadly assigned significance to the symbols and they are shown below. Where particular significance relating to a heraldic charge in an Irish context is available then a specific note is made. Examples of the charges on Irish coats of arms are shown where possible.