Errah is a bookwormy and logophilic writer and educator. He often writes about the world's politics, mythology, culture, and more.
What Are the Best Flags in the World?
Each country in the world has its own national flag. A national flag is a piece of cloth with a distinct design usually displayed on a flagpole. It represents a country and its people. It is one of the most important and respected symbols of a country and the emblem of freedom and sovereignty.
We see flags commonly everywhere we look in our everyday life. Flags are flown over schools, offices, and public places and are carried by athletes in international competitions, as a symbol of pride, for the country that they represent. They come in many colors and are depicted with various geometric features and common symbols.
The motifs typically have deep-rooted meaning in them and are generally associated with the history and culture of the country. This article discusses 15 of the best-designed national flags in the world.
Bhutan's national flag is a banner with a dragon on it. The dragon symbolizes the country's nickname: "Land of the Thunder Dragon." In Bhutanese mythology, thunder is thought to be the sound of dragons.
The dragon is white, which is a symbol of the purity and loyalty of the country. The dragon holds gems, symbolizing the nation's prosperity and excellence. The yellow-orange and red-orange stripes of the flag are diagonally separated. Yellow-orange represents the government of Bhutan whereas red-orange represents Buddhism, the country's principal religion.
Lebanon's flag is made up of a horizontal red-white-red pattern with a green cedar tree in the center.
The white field with a tree is based on snow-covered Lebanon Mountain, where cedar trees continue to thrive. The color white is also associated with purity and tranquility. The cedar tree, mentioned in Biblical passages, represents Maronite Christians. The tree also represents joy, prosperity, eternal life, and purity.
The red stripes signify the bloodshed of people who died to gain the country’s independence.
Nauru is a small island nation in Oceania. The flag of Nauru is an abstract map of the nation, representing the country's geographical position. The blue field represents the Pacific Ocean, the yellow horizontal line in the middle denotes the equator of the earth, and the 12-pointed star shows the exact location of the country on the map.
Because the country is located below the equator, the star lies under the yellow line. Because the lies to the left of the International Date Line, the star is likewise somewhat to the left of the flag. The star's 12 rays signify the country's 12 unique tribes.
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The Japanese national flag is also known as the Sun-Mark Flag or the Circle of the Sun because it is a simple flag consisting of a red disc on a white background. The white denotes purity and honesty while the red disc signifies the sun.
Since the beginning of Japan's history, the sun has been a central symbol of culture and religion. Amaterasu, the Japanese goddess of the sun, is the mythical founder of Japan and the progenitor of Japan's rulers. It is said that she lifted Japan from the depths of the sea, giving the country the name "The Land of the Rising Sun."
The sun also represents the location of Japan in the Far East of Asia; Japan is the first place where the sun rises on the Asian continent.
Austria's flag is divided into three horizontal stripes of red, white, and red. It is one of the world's oldest flags, having been used since 1230.
The flag is said to have been inspired by a duke's white cloth that had been stained by blood after a battle. The only part that wasn’t discolored was the one covered by his belt. When the duke removed his belt, he was taken aback by the red-white-red pattern he saw, and used it in his heraldry.
One-third of countries have religious symbols on their national flag to represent their beliefs, ideals, and rituals. The national flag of Uzbekistan is special because it contains not only a religious symbol but the history of the Uzbek religions.
Green, as well as the crescent moon on the canton, symbolizes Islam, the most prevalent religion of the country. White stands for Zoroastrianism, the ancient pre-Islamic religion of the country. Blue signifies the blue sky which is the abode of God. The two thin red stripes that separate the three major colors represent the minority religions.
The 12 stars beside the crescent moon represent the 12 imams of Islam, the 12 zodiac signs of the horoscopes, and the 12 months of the year. The arrangement of the 12 stars forms the word “Allah” in Arabic script.
Since Israel is the only Jewish majority country in the world, Israelis depicted Jewish symbols in their national flag. The six-pointed star at the center is referred to as the Star of David. It is the best-known symbol of Judaism. It signifies the Jewish God, Yahweh, and is used as a decoration in churches and other religious buildings.
The two blue stripes in the flag are derived from the stripes of the traditional Jewish prayer shawl which is called a tallit. Tallit is worn by worshipers during worship and other religious ceremonies. The colors are symbolic too. The blue represents heaven, the throne of God, and the white field is for God's benevolence.
The flag of Estonia is three-colored with three horizontal bands of blue, black, and white. Blue stands for faith, loyalty, and devotion; black represents the dark history of the country, and white signifies enlightenment and virtue. The design looks very simple but has a special meaning.
Nature is the cornerstone of the Estonian culture, thus the source of inspiration for making the national flag is natural scenery. The design of the flag is derived from the winter forest on the horizon. The blue is the sky, the black is the dark forest, and white is the winter snow that covers the ground.
The national flag of Ukraine is another simple but meaningful flag on the list. It holds the country's sobriquet, "the breadbasket of Europe." Ukraine has been given this nickname because it is Europe's largest producer of ingredients for making bread such as flour due to its vast fields of wheat and other food products.
The flag is reminiscent of a golden wheat field under the bright blue sky. The blue is the sky and the yellow is the golden wheat field.
6. United States of America
The U.S. flag is also called the Star-Spangled Banner or Old Glory. It bears both the past and present history of the United States. The 50 stars represent the 50 U.S. states, while the 13 stripes represent the 13 original states, which were initially British colonies that declared independence from Great Britain.
The colors of the flag also have meanings—blue represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice; red signifies hardiness and valor, and white is for purity and innocence.
Furthermore, the U.S. flag is completely modular. It can be modified without affecting its overall aesthetic by adding a star on the flag each time a state joins the union. It has been modified 26 times since its creation in 1776. In fact, the current design is not permanent. It will be replaced by a flag with 51 stars if a new state joins the union.
5. The Philippines
The Philippine national flag has equal bands of blue and red colors. The blue band means peace as well as truth, and justice whereas the red band means war as well as of patriotism, valor, and bloodshed of the people who fought for independence.
At the hoist is a white equiangular triangle that symbolizes equality, liberty, and fraternity. At the center of the triangle is a sun that symbolizes hope, freedom, people's democracy, and sovereignty. The eight rays of the sun stand for the first eight provinces which initiated a revolution against Spanish rule.
The three stars, one at each corner of the triangle stand for the three major groups of islands — Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The color of the celestial bodies themselves, which is gold or yellow, is for the richness of the land in natural resources.
The Philippine flag is the only flag in the world that has colors that swap. The red stripe can switch with the blue stripe which is effectively achieved by flipping the flag upside down. It is conducted to indicate whether the Philippines is in a state of peace or war. When the blue stripe is on top of the red stripe, it means that the country is in a state of peace. When the red stripe faces up and the blue stripe goes down, it means the country is in a state of war.
The history of the Philippine flag being flown upside down includes World War II, the Filipino-American War, and the Japanese occupation.
Iceland is a Christian island nation in Europe, located in the Northern Atlantic Ocean. It is well known as the Land of Ice and Fire because of its physical geographical feature —the volcanoes and glaciers stand side by side.
The flag was based on the country's religion, landscape, and sobriquet. The cross is for Christianity which is the most prevalent religion in the country, and shows the relation of Iceland to the Nordic countries (most of the flags of the Nordic countries have similar cross).
The color blue stands for the seas that surround the country; white is for ice, snow, and glaciers that cover the island; and red is for magma and lava produced by volcanoes. You can discern on the flag an erupting volcano whose lava spills on the icy island and flows into the sea.
Vexillologists (flag experts) describe the Canadian flag as one of the most beautiful flags in the world due to its simple but compelling design. The flag has two colors, red and white, which are the national colors of Canada. These colors also have meanings—the red symbolizes prosperity and hope, while the white is for neutrality, peace, and tranquility as well as the Canadian sobriquet, Great White North.
The red-white-red pattern is based on the flag of the Royal Military College of Canada and the ribbon of the Canada General Service Medal of 1899, a British decoration given to those who defended Canada in 19th-century battles.
The iconic feature of this flag is a maple leaf in the center. The maple leaf is a national emblem of the country and a widespread symbol that is often found everywhere in Canadian popular culture like books, songs, coins, badges, banners, and many other items. It represents pride, courage, and loyalty.
2. United Kingdom
The United Kingdom has been called “countries within a country” because it is comprised of four countries or principalities—England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales—united under one sovereign.
The flag of the United Kingdom is also called Union Jack or Union Flag, due to it being a simplified amalgamation of three separate flags—the flag of England, the flag of Scotland, and the unofficial, old flag of Ireland.
The flag of England, which is also called the Cross of St. George, is a red cross on a white background. The flag of Scotland, which is also called the Saltire of St. Andrew, is a white saltire on a blue background. The unofficial, old flag of Ireland, which is also called the Saltire of St. Patrick, was a red saltire on a white field.
Union Jack was originally a Royal flag. The Royal flag was created when England and Scotland united, and the flag was only a combination of the flags of the two countries. Later on, Ireland joined the union, and the Royal flag was added with the Saltire of St. Patrick (which was the unofficial flag of Ireland during that time) creating the Union Jack. It is amazing, isn't it?
However, Ireland is no longer a part of the United Kingdom since Ireland became an independent country. But the northern part of Ireland, which is now Northern Ireland, decided to retain its British status. When the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland were separated, they adapted their own new flags.
But since then, the Union Jack has not been changed. The symbol of Ireland is still there and has not been replaced by the new symbol of Northern Ireland. So far, the British recognize the Saltire of Saint Patrick representing Northern Ireland in the Union Jack.
Wales is missing in the Union Jack because when the Union Jack was created, Wales was part of England. For this reason, some people assume that the Cross of St. George both represents Wales and England. Fortunately, there is a petition to add the flag of Wales into the Union Jack to represent Wales.
Nepal is the only country in the world whose national flag is a non-quadrilateral. The shape of the flag is five-sided and can be described as a double triangular pennant.
It is a representation of the Himalayan Mountains, a geological feature in Nepal where the tallest mountains in the world (including Mount Everest) are located. When rotated 90 degrees to the left, it generates an image resembling the mountains.
The two pennants also represent the two major religions of the country, Buddhism and Hinduism. When the flag is being mirrored, it generates an image of a pagoda, the sacred building for Buddhists and Hindus.
The flag's coloration is also symbolic. The national flag is made up of three different colors: crimson red, dark blue, and white — the popular colors in Nepalese art and decoration.
The major color is crimson red, which is the national color of Nepal. It is also the color of Rhododendron, the national flower of the country. It represents the brave spirit of the people. The blue color stands for peace and harmony, while white represents light and awakening.
The depiction of celestial bodies—the moon and the sun—is for permanence, and the Nepalese saying, "Nepal will exist as long as the sun and the moon remain in the sky."
The moon also represents calmness and the cold temperature of the highland region whereas, the sun also symbolizes fierce and warm temperatures in the lowland region.
The eight spikes of the moon represent the eight phases of the moon, while the 12 rays of the sun represent the 12 stages of the sun.
- Union Jack | The Royal Family
- The Meaning and History of the American Flag and Why We Honor It
- Flag of Uzbekistan - Wikipedia
- The History of the National Flag of Canada | Canada.ca
- Facts About Ukraine - Google
- Flag: Origins, Forms, & Functions | Britannica
- History of the Philippine Flag | Edarabia
- Flag of Estonia | Wikipedia
- The Icelandic Flag | Adventures.com
- Austrian Flag and Its Meaning | Mappr
- Flag of Nepal - Everest Education Expedition | Montana State University
- A Brief History of Israeli National Flag | The Culture Trip
- Japanese Flag Meaning | Lonely Planet
- Flags, Symbols, & Currencies of Lebanon | World Atlas
- Flag of Bhutan | Britannica
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Errah Caunca