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The History of Pennant Flag and Its Purpose

Published on
May 19, 2022 at 1:44:22 PM PDT May 19, 2022 at 1:44:22 PM PDTth, May 19, 2022 at 1:44:22 PM PDT

What is the pennant or the pennon flag? You’ve probably seen dozens in your life, and it may all even have started with your very first birthday! That’s right, pennant flags can be triangular in shape, but there is more to them than being a fun decoration.

Here’s a little something about the history of pennant flags, how they came to be, and what types there are.

What Is a Pennant Flag?


A pennant flag or a pennon is a kind of flag that is bigger at the hoist than at the fly. It is most often in the triangular shape, but it needn’t be so. It can also be a triangular swallowtail shaped, or you may see a tapering pennant every now and then.

By the way, the pennon or pennant term comes from the Latin word penna, which means “feather” or “a wing”.

The origin of the pennon flag goes back to Europe and the Middle Ages, and the battles of the time. A pennant flag was carried by each knight on their lance. The pennant flag did not have any coat of arms but rather a motto, a crest, or some heraldic or ornamental devices.

There were several purposes of the pennant flag. Firstly, it was a signal denoting where a particular knight and his men are, so it was easier to navigate them in battle. Secondly, it was a sign of rank, and also a warning to the enemy. Finally, pennant flags were used in ceremonies, such as state funerals.

Pennants at the Sea

The battles were not only done on land, but on the sea as well. If you look at history, whoever had the greatest sailboats controlled the sea, the trade, and the country or countries. Thus, warships had their own large pennant flags, i.e. streamers.

These triangular pennants were long, tapering flags, and quite impressive in size. From 18 ft. to 60 ft. long, to about 24 ft. broad at the hoist. They also ended in two points. One of its biggest purposes was to make it easier to differentiate a warship from a trading ship. It was usually flown from the masthead of a warship.


Commissioning pennants were a sign that the ship was commissioned in the Royal Navy. When forked, they are called banderoles.


Ohio Pennant Flag


You can recognize this state flag anywhere — the Ohio flag is the only state flag with a swallow tail design, which is customary for pennant flags. Of course, its shape is a pennant one (or some even say a burgee one), while its purpose as a state flag remains much different, naturally.


Sports Pennant Flags


Pennant flags are not reserved just for war events any longer. Nowadays, they are used to denote different sides in a sports battle - in fact, these are some of Carrot-Top’s best sellers. The history of sports pennant flags is long and not less impressive than the battle stores — just ask the local supporters.


Sports teams pennant flags typically have the name of the team, a motto, or a mascot on them. They are widely used on all types of athletic levels, from high school games to professional sports events. They aren’t made just for teams, though, but can also be used to honor an institution or a vacation spot. Consequently, they’ve become souvenirs as well.


Over time, pennants that are honoring special victories have become valuable collectibles.


There are two sports events that particularly catch the attention when it comes to the pennant term. As a matter of fact, the National/American League championship is also called the pennant. The MLB’s winners are called the pennant winners and they get the right to play in the World Series. A similar rule applies to Australian sports, and yes, the high-flying pennant is also a must at the events. It’s been used since 1895 at games to proclaim the winning team, so everybody could see who the winner was.


Fun Pennant Flags


From winning a battle in the Middle Ages, big state event displays, and sports matches, pennant flags have become commercialized so we can see them at almost every birthday celebration, or as a kind of a business flag.


Either way, the purpose of these triangle flags has essentially remained the same. True, it no longer has that purpose of scaring the enemy, but there is that one about celebrating an achievement. Be it another year around the sun, a football victory, or the success and pride of founding a company, pennant flags are there to convey the right spirit. Some felt pennants or other fabric pennant flags are even seen with a multicolor pattern.

Carrot-Top offers a wide variety of high quality Pennant Flags, such as our Custom 2-color Pennants and our 50 ft. Pennant String Flags. These flags are meant for either indoor use or outdoor use and are commonly used as party supplies as well! Both of these options offer a great way to add some patriotic decor or custom decor to your home!

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