Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for December 7, 2019 is:

vexillology • vek-suh-LAH-luh-jee  • noun

: the study of flags


“I was recently watching a rerun episode of The Big Bang Theory that featured one of the main characters. Sheldon Cooper was videoing a new episode of Sheldon Cooper Presents: Fun With Flags, a YouTube/podcast show that Sheldon makes to teach vexillology, the scientific study of the history, symbolism and usage of flags.” — Alicia Vandine, The Brighton Independent (Belleville, Ontario), 12 July 2019

“After self-study in vexillology—the art of flag design—and a lot of erasing, [Laurin] Stennis settled on the circle-star design. The 20 stars represent Mississippi’s entry into the union as the 20th state; the blue star on the white background is an inversion of the white star on a blue field of ‘Bonnie Blue Flag,’ which was waved when the state seceded.” — Steve Hendrix, The Washington Post,20 Jan. 2019

Did you know?

“The flag is the embodiment, not of sentiment, but of history.” Woodrow Wilson was speaking of the U.S. flag when he made that statement in an address in June of 1915, but those who engage in vexillology—that is, vexillologists—would likely find the comment applicable to any national banner. Vexillologists undertake scholarly investigations of flags, producing papers with titles such as “A Review of the Changing Proportions of Rectangular Flags since Medieval Times, and Some Suggestions for the Future.” In the late 1950s, they coined vexillology as a name for their field of research, basing it on vexillum, the Latin term for a square flag or banner of the ancient Roman cavalry. The adjectives vexillologic and vexillological and the noun vexillologist followed soon thereafter.

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