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Vexillology

Definition: The study of flags.

Pronunciation: Vex-ill-oll-oh-gee

Origin:

The word vexillology is a relatively recent invention, as it was only coined in the 1950’s. It was based on the Latin word vexillum meaning “flag”, and it also referred to a group of men who were gathered under one flag. Vexillum is further derived from the Latin word vehere which means “to carry” (and which is also the root word of vehicle).

Why this word?

My toddler has recently become obsessed with flags, so I am having them pointed out to me on a much greater basis than ever before. I don’t think I ever paid attention to how many flags are in our neighborhood alone. Today we saw American, Scottish, and Wiccan flags along with flags on store fronts representing cats, dogs, Harry Potter, and many others. The ability of a flag to consolidate a message about the country, store, or item it represents is unique. In one image a national culture and history are conveyed by means of very few colors and images, providing a memorable way of identifying itself in a glance.

How to use the word vexillology in a sentence?

“Upon my initial reading I misinterpreted the word vexillology to mean the science of vexes. I was very confused until I figured out my error.”

“I am no vexillologist, but I do dabble a bit in both flags and heraldry.”

“My vexillological studies have shown beyond doubt that the origin of that flag is still unknown, and that vexillological is a hard word to say.”

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Written by Kate Fulton

Kate Fulton has a bachelor’s degree in classics and psychology from the University of Massachusetts and is working on a library science degree from Simmons College. She has always been fascinated by words- their usage, spelling, and etymology. Kate may be one of the few people who enjoyed the verbal section of the SAT. Yes, she is a word geek. Currently she bores her husband and young daughter with her love of vocabulary.

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