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Family Crest Meanings

Family crest meanings illustrate the role symbols played in battles of the past. Families used them to identify themselves on the battlefield. Meanings often represented the bravery of its owner, adding to his aura as a formidable enemy.

Family Crest Meanings

Symbols on Crests

Symbols that give meaning to family crests can denote one’s loyalty. For example, crests worn by warriors during the Holy Wars may contain a cross. A white cross was often associated with the English whereas the French wore red-colored crosses.

Symbols range the gambit from the sun and moon to animals, weapons, and other icons associated with particular traits or messages to convey to an enemy. While family crest meanings don’t serve the same purpose today, they do provide a glimpse into a time when heraldry and chivalry reigned supreme.

Family Crest Meanings

Some general definitions can apply to the meanings associated with the colors and symbolism of family crests. However, bear in mind that family crests can date back hundreds of years when meanings reflected a different time period.


Colors can convey a general theme of a crest. Some colors carry meanings that are easy to associate. Purple, for example, can mean royalty or sovereignty. White can carry a message of peace. Black may show grief. Blue may mean loyalty to principle or leader.

Emblems and Representations

Some symbols can add to the overall meaning of a family crest. Emblems and representations may be natural elements such as a bull, which denotes bravery. A lion may mean courage. A snake may convey wisdom.

These symbols also illustrate the changing elements of everyday society. You may associate an oak tree with a symbol of toughness or perseverance. Yet, in earlier times, the oak had a very different meaning of growth and fertility. Likewise, a miter or a bishop’s liturgical headdress was a symbol of authority.

The symbolism gives a glimpse into a different world where man was much closer to the Earth. A bear symbol may have been intended to show ferocity in battle as one may have witnessed in the wild. A stag may mean that the bearer will fight if provoked. A beaver may be viewed as a symbol of industry and perseverance as witnessed by its construction of dams.

Other symbols conveyed higher ideals. The star, for example, may represent celestial goodness, a meaning that Julius Caesar may have taken to heart as part of his crest, denoting his believed descent from Venus. The cross in its many forms could mean faith or blessings. It may also be symbolic of a military honor, a meaning now lost in modern society.

Symbols of Rank

Certain symbols found on family crests can show the bearer's rank in aristocracy. The crest of royalty may contain a lion as a symbol of strength. Several other animals frequently appear through heraldry including the tiger, elephant, and wolf.

Imaginary Creatures

Some family crests include imaginary creatures, perhaps as a way to show dominance on the battlefield. The half man/half horse figure of the centaur showed that its bearer was distinguished in battle. You may also find unicorns on several family crests as symbols of virtue and strength. The half eagle/half lion figure of the griffin would indicate to an enemy a valiant hero who will fight to the end.

The symbol of the dragon parts with modern day associations as an evil conqueror. In the heraldry of family crests, it is the dragon that is set to defeat the vicious enemy. In the same, the phoenix, an imaginary bird-like figure, serves as a warning to enemies that if he should fall, another will soon rise to take up the battle again.

Family crest meanings acted like psychological warfare to intimidate the enemy and warn of the dangers of battle. Though their meanings may have faded through the decades, they hearken back to a time when physical combat was the only solution in times of conflict. Their symbolism and beauty reveal their true purpose.