Canting arms

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Canting Arms

Canting Arms(sometimes called allusive or punning arms, and by French heralds, armes parlantes) are very generally distributed. They are arms containing charges which are allusive to the name of the bearer. A few examples are annexed.


Gules, a castle triple towered or, and argent, a lion rampant gules(sometimes purpure, and often crowned or), quarterly--The kingdom of CASTILE and LEON.

Sable, six swallows(fr. hirondelles), 3, 2, 1, argent--ARUNDEL, Wardour, Wilts.

Barry of six, argent and gules--BARRY, Ireland.

Gules, three covered cups or--BUTLER. [This family was originally named FITZWALTER, and bore Or, a chief indented azure, but one of them being appointed to the office of lord Butler of Ireland, they took the surname of BUTLER at the same time as their arms.]

Argent, three eagles displayed gules--EGLESFIELD, Cumb. (Founder of Queen's College, Oxford, 1340).

Argent, three eels naiant in pale sable--ELLIS, Norf.

Crest, a holy lamb--EVANS, Wales. [This is an allusion to S.John the Baptist; Evan being the Welsh form of the Christian name John.]

Gules, on a chevron between three ostrich feathers argent, a pellet(or gun-stone)--FETHERSTON, Herts.

Argent, on a mount in base vert, a hart lodged gules--HARTHILL.

Crest, a talbot's head couped argent, collared sable, to the collar a ring of the first--HAYWARD, Surrey. [This is a specimen of heraldic allusions of a more recondite character, the reference being to the Saxon haganpeapd. a house-dog.]

Or, three boots(hosen) sable--HUSSEY.

Azure, a cross moline or--MOLINEUX, Hawkley, Lanc.

Gules, a fesse between four dexter hands couped argent--QUATREMAYNE, Oxfordsh.

Azure, even acorns, 2, 3, 2, or--SEVENOKE(Lord Mayor of London, 1418).

Argent, a stork sable, beaked and membered gules--STARKEY, Chesh.

Azure, two trumpets pileways, between eight cross crosslets, 3, 3, 2, or--TRUMPINGTON, Cambr. (Sir Roger de Trumpington, ob. 1289).

Many even of early coats of arms allude, in some way or other, to the names of their bearer, and perhaps more than is commonly suspected would be found to be so, if we could always recover the early chance names given to the charges of which they are composed.

Geoffrey de LUCY, de goules a trois lucies d'or--Roll, temp. HEN. III.

Nicholas de MOELES, d'argent a deux barres de goules, a trois molets en le chief de goules--Ibid.

Thomas CORBETT, d'or deux carbeaux noir--Ibid.

Roger de MERLEY, barree d'argent et de goulz, a la bordur d'azure, et merlots d'or en la bordur--Ibid.

Odinel HERON d'azur a trois herons d'argent--Ibid.

Arms parlantes do not often occur of later date than King James I., about which time they began to grow into disrepute from ignorance and misapplication, and were nick-named canting or punning arms. They were numerous at all preceding periods, not only in England, but throughout Christendom.

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