Last modified: 2019-08-06 by rob raeside
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From the Dictionary of Vexillology:
Where did the word "triband" come from? Before giving the matter any thought
I had assumed that it was another word for a horizontal tricolour. Triband is
used in Wikipedia with the same meaning as in the Dictionary of Vexillology, but
I have not found it in any general dictionary, except as a term for a type of
I suggest that "a flag of three parallel stripes or bands but using only two colours" should be referred to as "a two colour tricolour". The phrase is contradictory, but the meaning is clear.
David Prothero, 11 June 2009
I first heard the word with this particular meaning about 15 years ago - it
was used by William Crampton (to describe the flag of Spain
as it happens) and was so included by him in the dictionary he was preparing at
the time of his death. As far as I remember however, no other written source has
given it?. All the vexillological sources we consulted when compiling the
Dictionary of Vexillology gave "tricolour" of course, but all had the proviso
that any such must be composed of three colours, and (since there was an obvious
need for any such distinction) we therefore adopted William's. None the less,
the Dictionary of Vexillology attempts to give all the meanings of any given
term and I would remind you that definition three under "triband" gives this:
"3) Informally, any flag of three parallel stripes or bands in either two colours or three. These stripes may be disposed vertically, horizontally or diagonally, be of equal or unequal width and be either defaced or plain," with the relevant notes as follows:
"Please note with regard to 1) and 2), that the Editors have drawn a distinction between flags with three stripes and three colours and those having three stripes and only two colours, with the definitions for tricolour and triband having been carefully drawn up using all available sources, however, please see further note below.
With regard to 3) it should be further noted that this definition includes not only all flags detailed in 1) and 2) above, but also those described under 'tricolour', and it is strongly suggested that these entries be consulted before usage."
I would suggest that a "two-colour triband" (rather than a "two-colour tricolour") would be less confusing, but would it not be far more simple if we (that is the vexillological community) simply accepted the distinction as listed in the Dictionary of Vexillology and Wikipedia?
Christopher Southworth, 11 June 2009
I believe (off my head, not having any references where I am now) that beside Crampton, the term is defined or at least used in Smith's 1975 Flags Through the Time and Across the World. It must have been used also in many vex-works and probably in many papers in ICV proceedings. As far as I understand the term, triband is any flag of three stripes - generally of any colours, but more specifically such using two colours, since for three coloured triband we have more specific term - tricolour. (Just as a rectangle in general includes squares, when used specifically or in opposition to square it includes only non-square rectangles).
I suppose that it is not found in any general English dictionaries as there
are no prominent tribands in English speaking world, so the word is not all that
necessary there. On the other hand, I would guess that it (or its German
counterpart) may be found in German dictionaries (where there are several
prominent tribars, Austrian one being the obvious example).
Željko Heimer, 11 June 2009
I was working from memory also, but have since checked and (whilst he may
have used the term in his text) Dr Smith certainly didn't define it in his 1975
book, however, Nonetheless, Whitney and I were talking on the telephone a couple
of years ago (co-incidentally also about the Spanish flag) and he used the term
"triband" to describe a flag of three stripes but only two colours.
You would agree, I trust, that there is a definite need to draw a written/verbal distinction between a flag of three stripes and three colours and a flag of three stripes and only two colours, and to use the terms "tricolour" and "triband" (respectively) seems to me to be the simplest - the most straightforward - way of doing so? Heraldic blazoning makes a precise distinction between the two, so (to extend Željko's point about the use of "rectangle") why should vexillology - whose need is if anything greater - not do the same but in more generally understandable language?
Christopher Southworth, 11 June 2009
We should be accurate in description - the Spanish flag, for example, could
be described as a "red-gold-red horizontal triband", "red with a horizontal gold
stripe", "red with a gold fess", or to go wholly heraldic "Gules a fess Or". As
long as we give the proportions of the stripes as 1-2-1 they are all (with the
possible exception of the wholly heraldic description) immediately
understandable by everybody and not open to confusion.
Whether we use the terms "tricolour" or "triband" to describe the flag of the Netherlands and others of that ilk is actually irrelevant, what is of vital importance is that we should, under no circumstances, use the term "tricolour" when describing the Spanish flag (or other examples of this type of course), as that term is already (and extensively) defined as being restricted to a flag of three colours. None the less, Drs. Campton and Smith have shown us a simple way forward, and if I might further suggest, it could be considered a hint arrogant of us not to follow their lead.
Christopher Southworth, 12 June 2009