AskDefine | Define pennon

Dictionary Definition



1 a long flag; often tapering [syn: pennant, streamer, waft]
2 wing of a bird [syn: pinion]

User Contributed Dictionary



Anglo-Norman penun, penoun, from Old French penne ‘feather’ + -on diminutive suffix.



  1. A thin triangular flag or streamer, especially as hung from the end of a lance or spear.
    • 1909, Charles Henry Ashdown, European Arms & Armor, page 65:
      Nearly all the Norman spears were embellished with pennons of from two to five points.

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

A pennon or pennant is one of the principal varieties of flags carried during the Middle Ages. Pennoncells and streamers or pendants are considered as minor varieties of this style of flag. The pennon is a flag resembling the guidon in shape, but only half the size. It does not contain any coat of arms, but only crests, mottos and heraldic and ornamental devices.
Pennon comes from the Latin penna meaning "a wing" or "a feather." It was sometimes pointed, but more generally forked or swallow-tailed at the end. In the 11th century, the pennon was generally square, one end being decorated with the addition of pointed tongues or streamers, somewhat similar to the oriflamme. During the reign of Henry III, the pennon acquired the distinctive swallow-tail, or the single-pointed shape. Another version of the single-pointed pennon was introduced in the 13th century. In shape this was a scalene triangle, obtained by cutting diagonally the vertically oblong banner.
The pennon was a purely personal ensign. It was essentially the flag of the knight bachelor, as apart from the knight banneret, carried by him on his lance, displaying his personal armorial bearings, and set out so that they stood in correct position when he couched his lance for charging. A manuscript of the 16th century (Hari. 2358) in the British Museum, which gives detailed particulars as to the size, shape and bearings of the standards, banners, pennons and pennoncells, says "a pennon must be two yards and a half long, made round at the end, and contain the arms of the owner," and warns that "from a standard or streamer a man may flee but not from his banner or pennon bearing his arms." A pennoncell (or penselle) was a diminutive pennon carried by the esquires. Pennons were also used for any special ceremonial occasion, and more particularly at state funerals. For instance, there were "12 dozen penselles" among the items that figured at the funeral of the Duke of Norfolk in 1554, and in the description of the lord mayor's procession in 1555, it reads "two goodly pennes (state barges) decked with flags and streamers, and a 1000 penselles." Among the items that ran the total cost of the funeral of Oliver Cromwell up to an enormous sum of money, we find mention of 30 dozen of pennoncells a foot long and costing 20 shillings a dozen, and 20 dozen of the same kind of flags at 12 shillings a dozen.
The streamer, so called in Tudor days but now better known as the pennant or pendant, was a long, tapering flag, which it was directed "shall stand in the top of a ship or in the forecastle, and therein be put no arms, but the man's cognisance or device, and may be of length 20, 30, 40 or 60 yards, and is slit as well as a guidon or standard."
Among the fittings of the ship that took Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, to France in the reign of Henry VII was a "great streamer for the ship 40 yards in length [and] 8 yards in breadth." The pennant in ships sometimes ends in a point, but often is forked, in which case it is also called a streamer. Pennants are also associated with American sports teams, such a major league baseball and college sports teams.


pennon in German: Pennon
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