Line (heraldry)

From Academic Kids

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A chief enarched indented throughout in the arms of Sawbridgeworth

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A fess wavy in the arms of Welwyn Hatfield

A chief embattled in the arms of Letchworth

The lines used to divide and vary fields and charges in heraldry are by default straight, but may have many different shapes. (Care must sometimes be taken to distinguish these shapes from actual charges, such as "a mount [or triple mount] in base," or, particularly in German heraldry, different kinds of embattled from castle walls.) The most common include the following:

  • indented: with small zigzags like a saw's edge.
  • dentilly: similar to indented, but with one of the sides of the points perpendicular and the other angled (of more recent vintage).
  • dancetty: a deep zigzag with (usually) three points; in early days no distinction was drawn between this and indented. (A fess dancetty is called a dance.)
  • rayonné: as indented, but with curved instead of straight lines.
  • wavy (rarely called undy): like a sine curve.
  • engrailed: a series of half-circles, with the lobes pointing towards the chief or dexter as a line of division, or towards the interior of an ordinary.
  • invected: the reverse of engrailed.
  • nebuly: a series of mushroom shapes, representing stylized clouds.
  • potenty: like a row of capital T's ("potent" means a crutch).
  • embattled: topped with a row of small squares, like a battlement.
    • When a fess is embattled, only the topmost edge is altered. If both edges are to be embattled, the term embattled-counter-embattled (or counter-embattled, as in the arms of Sir Cecil Denniston Burney) is used. In this case the lines are parallel. If gaps face gaps, the term bretessé is used.
    • embattled grady: has one small square atop another. James Parker says that double-embattled may be the same as this.[1] (
  • raguly: as with embattled, but slanted instead of orthogonal.
  • dovetailed: as the name implies; unlike embattled, gaps face gaps.

Exotic line shapes

The number of peaks in indented is almost never specified, but an exception is the arms of Arthur D. Stairs: Per bend sinister indented of six steps Gules and Sable, and Westville, Natal, South Africa bears Sable, issuant from behind a fence of spears in base Argent, a fig tree in leaf Or; on a chief indented of four points to base, also Or, three lion's faces Sable.[2] (

In South Africa there are a number of examples of dancetty inverted.[3] ( While the number of peaks in dancetty are three unless otherwise specified, the arms of Wagland show dancetty of two points[4] ( and the arms of Baz Manning show an (identical in appearance) "dancetty of two full points upwards"[5] ( The arms of the Matroosberg Transitional Representative Council in South Africa give an example of dancetty... in the shape of a letter W.[6] ( The arms of the French department of Côtes d'Armor show émanché, which would be equivalent to the English per fess dancetty of two full points upwards. The arms of The arms of the Free State ( in South Africa show "a chief dancetty, the peaks terminating in merlons," and so might be called a combination of dancetty and embattled (a similar situation can be seen in the arms of the Agricultural Gymnasium ( Hoerskool Hangklip provide an example of dancetty with points flattened.[7] ([ the arms of the Agricultural Gymnasium]. It is difficult to know whether to characterise the "wall-like extremity with five merlons and four embrasures" in the arms of the Kurgan Oblast in Russia as a divided field or a charge.[8] (

The wavy chief in the arms of Lord Nelson was blazoned as undulated.[9] (

The arms of the 40th Finance Battalion of the United States Army's field are blazoned as parted per fess wavy (in the manner of a Taeguk).[10] (

The arms of James Hill show an example of barrulets wavy crested to the sinister on the upper edge.[11] ( There are examples of even great complexity and specificity in the wavy line, such as the arms of "Baron Nolan... [which include] three 'bars wavy couped composed of two troughs and a wave invected of one point on the upper edge and engrailed of one point on the lower edge'"[12] (

The arms of Kutlwanong Dorp in South Africa ( provide an example both of the specification of the number of lobes in invected, and those lobes being trefly.

Specification of the number of "undulations" in nebuly can be seen by Jochen Wilke's roundel, with ten.[13] ( (It is uncommon for lines of partition to modify something other than a division of the field or an ordinary.)

The arms of Schellenberg, in Liechtenstein, provide an example of embattled "with three battlements." The bordure in the arms of Boissy l'Aillerie, in Val d'Oise, France, have a bordure with nine battlements (and the bordure is also masoned and contains doorlike openings). The arms of the 2nd Baron Kirkwood, David Kirkwood, show two chevronels round embattled (the merlons are rounded rather than squares). The arms of Anders Daae ( show battled embattled. There is also an example of embattled in the form of mine dumps.[14] (

James Parker cites the arms of Christopher Draisfield: "Gules, a chevron raguly of two bastons couped at the top argent."[15] (

The arms of Zodwa Special School for Severely Mentally Handicapped Children ( show a chevron dovetailed, the peak ensigned with a potent issuant.

Some examples also exist of urdy, where the line is in the shapes of the upside-down and rightside-up "shields" of vair (this is to be distinguished from couped urdy, in which the couping takes a pointed form[16] ( The arms of Winfried Paul Reinhold Steinhagen are Per chevron, the peak in the form of a merlon round urdy of four, Gules and Or, in chief a horse forcene and a goat clymant respecting one another, Argent, and in base a bull's head Sable armed Argent; a chief per fess in the form of a wall with three watchtowers, Azure and Argent, the latter charged with a strand of barbed wire throughout, Sable.[17] (

The arms of Ernest John Altobello show a chevronel with the upper edge grady (this is identical in appearance to indented) "and ensigned of a tower Argent".

The arms of the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons [18] ( have a bordure emblazoned "dentate," although this appears to be quite similar to dovetailed.

The rare line bevilled modifies the bendlets in the arms of Barne ( This lightning-bolt type of line with one zigzag is to be distinguished from angled, in which the line takes a 90-degree upwards turn before another 90-degree turn, continuing parallel and in the same direction from the old line. There is a South African example of bevilled to sinister,[19] ( and a bend double bevilled can be seen in the arms of Philip Kushlick School (

A line nowed contains a semicircular protuberance in the middle.

The arms of Léopold-Henri Amyot show "per fess ogivu"[20] (; this is based on the "ogive" or French for "pointed arch."

A line trefly shows protuberances in the form of trefoils.

The arms of Carmichael show a fess "wreathy," which may or may not be strictly speaking a line of partition, but it does modify the fess; the coat is not blazoned as a "wreath in fess". James Parker calls this "tortilly."[21] (

The 20th century saw some innovations in lines of partition. Erablé, a series of alternating upside-down and rightside-up maple-leaves (though a typically Canadian line of partition, the College of Arms in London has used it in a few grants [22] ( and a Finnish line of partition, invented by Kaj Cajander and called kuusikoro, which is called fir-tree in Britain, and which the Canadian Heraldic Authority coined the term sapine to blazon, resembles fir trees; in the arms of Guy Selvester ( this is called sapinage. A line resembling fir twigs, and so called in British blazon, is called sapinagy in Canada, and havukoro in Finland.[23] ( Other 20th-century examples of lines, or things akin to lines, include the 1990 grant to Albersdorf-Prebuch, also in Austria, in which the upper line of the fess takes the form of fruit, the bottom of vine-leaves. (It is debatable what the distinction is between such lines, and examples such as the Austrian arms of Bierbaum am Auersbach, in which three pears grow from a shakefork.)[24] (

The South African Bureau of Heraldry has developed the line of partition serpentine, which is rather like wavy, but with only one "wave";[25] ( the serpentine in the arms of the Mtubatuba Primary School is defined as "dexter to chief and sinister to base".[26] ( (Similar is the German "im Schlangenschnitt" (snake-wise).) It has also developed the uniquely South-African line of division (which can also form the ends of a charge) nowy of a Cape Town gable (now called just nowy gabled).[27] ( Similarly, the fess line in the arms of the Council for Social and Associated Workers is nowy of a trimount inverted,[28] ( the fess in the arms of Mossel Bay is nowy of two Karoo gable houses,[29] ( the chief in the arms of the Lenasia South-East Management Committee is nowy of an Indian cupola,[30] ( and the chief in the arms of the Genealogical Society of South Africa is double nowy gably.[31] ( The arms of the Reyneke Bond (i.e. Reyneke Family Association) are Per fess, in each flank double nowy fitchy to base, Azure and Or, a lion rampant per fess of the second and Gules, a chief Or.[32] ( The plain chief identifies these as the arms of a family association.

Chiefs, fesses and palar dividing lines are sometimes seen arched and double-arched (and there is an example of triple-arched[33] (, though there is some debate as to whether or not these are lines of partition. That arched can be combined with partition lines can be seen from the arms of South Lanarkshire in Scotland.[34] ( Arched can also be reversed.

In "wavy crested" the line is modified in the form of stylised "cresting" waves.

A shield horizontally and vertically divided into red (upper left and lower right) and silver with sawedged lines would be blazoned: Quarterly indented gules and argent.

Chevrons can be topped with a fleur-de-lys, and ordinaries with a non-straight border (particularly if they are dancetty or engrailed) can have the points topped with demi fleurs-de-lys. In some reference works flory-counter-flory is treated like a line of partition, even though strictly speaking it is not. (However, Modar Neznanich of the Society for Creative Anachronism's Barony of the Forgotten Sea has, in SCA's heraldry, Per pale flory-counterflory argent ermined purpure and purpure, to sinister a mullet of eight interlocking mascles argent, all within a bordure counterchanged.)

In Scotland lines of partition are often used to modify a bordure to difference the arms of a cadet from the chief of the house.


  • Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 105th edition.

See also

Variations of ordinaries

The Heraldry Series

Crest | Compartment | Field | Line | Mantling | Shield | Supporters | Tincture

Argent | Azure | Carnation | Celeste | Cendrée | Gules | Murrey | Or | Purpure | Sable | Sanguine | Tenné | Vert

Bend | Chevron | Chief | Cross | Fess | Fillet | Flaunch | Pall | Pale | Quarter | Saltire


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