Counter, (fr. contre), simply means opposite; but with this general sense it is variously employed.
When applied to the position of two animals, it signifies that they are turned in contrary directions, i.e. back to back, as two foxes counter-salient in saltire. If but one animals is spoken of, it means that it faces the sinister, as a lion counter-rampant, that is in an opposite direction to that which is usual. Two lions accosted counter-couchant means that they lie side by side, with their heads in contrary directions. Again, two lions counter-couchant in pale denotes that one occupies the upper part of the shield, and the other the lower, one facing the dexter, the other the sinister. One line counter-couchant always faces the sinister. The term counter-passant(fr. contre passant) is used in the same way. A good example of counter-trippant will be found under Deer.
When applied to the tinctures the term counterchanged is of frequent occurrence, and signifies that the field consists of metal and colour separated by one of the lines of partition named from the ordinaries(per pale, per bend, &c.), and that the charges, or parts of charges, placed upon the metal are of the colour, and vice versa. Counter-coloured is sometimes, but erroneously, used. The annexed illustration affords a simple instance.
Per pale argent and sable, a chevron counterchanged--S.BARTHOLOMEW'S Hospital, London. [Indentical with those of LAWSON, Cumberland, (Bart., 1688.)]
Sometimes the counterchange is more complicated, as in the following.
Barry of six, argent and gules, per pale indented counterchanged--PETOE, Chesterton, Warwick.
Party per chevron or and azure, three mullets counterchanged--George DAY, Bp. of Chichester, 1543-51 and 1554-56.
Party per pale azure and purpure, three bars counterchanged--Adam HOUGHTON, Bp. of S. David's, 1361-89.
Or, a chevron paly of eight gules and argent, per chevron counterchanged--SURRIDGE.
In old French rolls the term de l'un en l'autre occurs, and is still used by French heralds: it is in most cases practically equivalent to the more recent term counterchanged. The following are examples, and another will be found previously given under bar gemel. See also under Party.
Sire Robert de FARNHAM quartile de argent e de azure, a iiij cressauz de lun en lautre--Roll, temp. ED. II.
Monsieur de METSED, quarterly, d'or et gules, a quatre escallops de l'une et l'autre--Roll, temp. ED. III.
Applied to various ordinaries and other charges, expressions like counter-embattled(fr. contre-bretesse), counter-fleury(fr. contre-fleuré), imply that both sides have alternate projections, while amongst the furs, counter-vair(fr. contre-vaire), counter-potent(fr. contre-potencé), &c., mean that the pieces are turned round contrary to their usual position. Examples are given under the several headings. Counter-camp is only a corruption of counter-compony. Counter-ermine is a term used by Nisbet for Ermines.
Applied to two chevrons the term counter-pointed would mean that the two chevrons are drawn in opposite directions, their points meeting in the centre of the shield.