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A dexter wing.
A dexter wing.
Wings conjoined, (fr.vol).
Wings conjoined, (fr.vol).
Wings conjoined in lure.
Wings conjoined in lure.

Wings, (fr. ailes), occur frequently as heraldic devices. If no description is given implied the wing must be drawn like an eagle's wing, and with the tip upwards. Wings are borne singly, or two are conjoined. In the former case it must be stated whether it is a dexter or a sinister wing.

In the latter case, when the term conjoined alone is used, it is said to be equivalent to the French vol, that is, the wings are placed with the tips upwards, back to back, and joined at the base. When the term conjoined in lure is used(and this is more frequently the case), then they should be drawn with the points downwards, and conjoined at the top.

Gules, three[dexter] wings elevated argent--NEWPORT.

Argent, three sinister wings gules--SEXTON.

Argent, a fesse between three sinister wings sable--DARBY, Walton, co. Leicester.

Azure, three bars argent, on a chief of the last as many pair of wings conjoined gules--FLEMING.

Argent, a stag trippant surmounted by a tree eradicated vert; on a chief azure two wings expanded and conjoined of the field--RENNY.

Gules, a pair of wings conjoined in lure[otherwise inverted and conjoined] or--SAINT-MAUR.

Argent, on a pale azure three pairs of wings conjoined in lure of the first--B. POTTER, Bp. of Carlisle, 1629-1642.

Gules, five marlion's wings in saltire argent--Sir Arthur PORTER of Newark(Guillim, 1612, p. 225).

D'azur, à la fasce d'or chargée d'un lion leopardé de gueules, accompagnée en pointe de deux vols d'or--PASSERAT DE SILANS, Bugey.

Wings, too, are very often attached to animals, &c., and though eagle's wings are generally intended, the dragon's wing is sometimes distinctly named; for the mode of drawing see under Cockatrice, Griffin, &c. In the Evangelistic symbols the Lion and Bull are represented with wings, as well as the Angel and the Eagle.

Argent, a wivern with wings endorsed gules between two flaunches of the last--DRAKE.

Argent, a stag trippant with wings attached to the buttocks and hind legs proper, between the attires a rose or--JONES, co. Brecknock.

Paly of six or and azure, a fesse chequy argent and sable, on a canton gules a dragon's wing erect of the third, in base a sword proper, pomel and hilt gold, surmounting a silver key in saltire--CURTIS[Lord Mayor of London, 1796].

Argent, a fesse counter-compony or and azure between three roses gules; on a chief of the second as many lion's gambs fixed to dragon's sinister wings sable; all within a bordure gobony of the third and purpure--WHITTINGTON.

But the wings play an important port in the description of birds. For them heralds have devised quite a system of nomenclature, though, as a matter of fact, it is to a very slight degree put in practice, the choice of terms being very arbitrary, and the mode of drawing, perhaps, more so.

Practically where the wings were open, if they had been described as downwards or elevated it would have met all real requirements, but accidental differences in drawing seem to have given occasion for a pedantic nomenclature, which has naturally become confused because it has had no foundation in fact. It has, however, been thought necessary to give a list of the terms, and attempt some account of what is probably intended by them.


Displayed(fr. éployé; old fr. espanié) signifies that the wings are somewhat open, with the points upwards. In nine cases out of ten the eagle is so represented, and it is generally allowed that even when no description is given to the eagle it should be drawn displayed. (See engraving under Eagle.)

Similar to displayed is expanded or expansed, and some writers contend that while the first term is applicable only to the eagle or other birds of prey, the latter terms should be employed for birds of a tamer kind, but such distinction appears to be theoretical; and in connection with this it may be noted that displayed is generally applied to the Bat or reremouse(q.v.), as also to the Cockatrice.

Examples of displayed will be found under Eagle, Pelican, and Dove, and of expanded under Eagle, Swan, Stork, and Heathcock.

Azure, six seagulls, three, two, and one argent, the dexter wing displayed, the sinister close--APILBY, co. Salop.

Argent, an eagle, wings expanded gules, standing on the trunk of a tree raguly vert--PORTER.

Gules, a swan, wings expanded argent--DALE, co. Northumberland.

Argent, a chevron between three ravens expansed sable--ROOKEBY.

Argent, a reremouse displayed sable--BAXTER, Scotland.

Sable, a cockatrice displayed argent, crested, membered, and wattled gules--BOGAN, co. Devon.


Disclosed, on the other hand, is used of a bird with the wings open but pointing downwards. At the same time it will be found that such expressions as displayed downwards(see example under Eagle), displayed inverted(see example under Pelican), and expanded inverted(see under Dove), are also used with the same meaning.

It seems, too, that the expression overt or overture, flottant, and hovering practically mean the same thing, i.e. with the wings open but bent downwards. The expression overt is often employed in conjunction with others, e.g. with rising. The expression also overt inverted will be observed. An example of hovering and of overt will be found under Falcon, and of overture under Eagle.

Vert, a parrot, wings disclosed, holding up the left foot or--ANTICK.

Gules, on a canton argent a bird, wings expanded[or overt] and inverted sable--HUTTON.

Argent, a chevron gules between three sea-pies rising overt inverted brown--TREVENOUR.

Where the expression preying or trussing(fr. empiétant) is used, the bird should be represented with the wings overt inverted. See illustration of a hawk trussing under Falcon.


Another term very frequently used is Rising(fr. essorant), meaning that the bird is opening its wings as if prepared to take flight. Surgerant, as also soaring and levant, mean the same. The word roussant, given by some writers, but not observed in any blazon, is said to be restricted to birds attempting to fly whose weight renders them unable to do so: so also some writers use the technical word collying for falcons, &c., when about to rise.

Examples of Rising will be found under Goose, Cornish Chough, Stork, Bustard, and Dove, and combined with other terms under Eagle and Falcon.

Quarterly ermine and azure, in the second and third quarters an eagle rising[otherwise volant] or--ADAMS.

Argent, a fesse humetty gules between three ravens rising sable--PEIRCE, London.

Or, three birds(probably lapwings) surgerant ... a bordure vert--Sir Rhys HEN, co. Caernarvon.

Gules, on a chief or two swallows rising overt proper--SPEED, London.

Quarterly gules and vert, a dove rising, wings overt inverted, between three round buckets or--BRAMSTON.

Quarterly ermine and azure; in the second quarter an eagle rising wings overt inverted; and in the third quarter another rising wings displayed or--Sir Adam de BERRY.


Endorsed with its synonym sepurture signifies that the wings are only slightly elevated, but thrown back so as almost to touch each other.

Argent, on a raven, wings endorsed proper between four cross crosslets fitchy, one, two and one, anther gules--CROSS.

Gules, on a fesse wavy, between three swans with wings endorsed argent, as many crosses patty sable, each charged with five bezants--LANE, London.

Sable, a chevron ermine between three pelicans with wings endorsed or--MEDDOWES.


Erect probably means that the points of the wings are raised higher than in endorsed. Examples will be found under Eagle.

Gules, four swans erect argent--ROOSE, co. Cornwall.

Argent, on a chevron engrailed gules, between in chief two birds with wings erect and in base an anchor or, five bezants--BOASE, co. Cornwall.

Elevated perhaps means something between endorsed and erect.

Azure, a chevron between three mallards, wing elevated[otherwise swans rising] argent--WOLRICH, co. Suffolk.

Azure, a pelican, wings elevated or, vulning her breast gules, between three fleurs-de-lis of the second--KEMPTON, co. Cambridge.


Volant is a term used to signify that the wings are extended in a horizontal position, and representing the bird in full flight. The head should be towards the dexter, unless otherwise expressed. (See under Swallow.) The position of birds so borne may be distinguished from rising, by their legs being drawn up towards their bodies.

Volant en arrière seems to be used of insects rather than of birds, and signifies that they have their back to the spectator. Volant recursant means the same, but the head should be slightly turned round; and Diversely volant, i.e. flying about in different directions is applied to bees. (See under Beehive.)

Examples of volant will be found under Eagle, Heathcock, Raven, Rook, &c.

Argent, a fesse azure between three birds volant gules--TREWINCAN.

Gules, an eagle volant recursant in bend, wings overt or--BEES.

Argent, a heron volant in fesse azure membered or--HERONDON.

Azure, a chevron argent between three martlets volant or--BYERS.

Last of all we have the wings Close(fr. plié), that is with the wings closed towards the bird. See examples under Eagle, Falcon, Goose, Barnacle-goose, Swan, Sea-fowl, Stork, Lapwing, Parrot, Kingfisher, &c., under several of which Illustrations will be found, as well as under Heathcock, Heron, Moorcock, Owl, Raven, &c.

All birds are to be represented close when not otherwise described, except eagles, which were in ancient arms nearly always represented displayed; as to swans, in the old cognizance they were represented open or close very indifferently.

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