In a word: Gonfalon

August 22, 2011

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:

GONFALON

A gonfalon (pronounced GAHN-fu-lahn) is a flag suspended from a crosspiece instead of from an upright staff. It often ends in streamers. The word comes from the Frankish gundfano, "battle standard," and the Italian gonfalone. The Italian is particularly appropriate because such banners were the standards of some Italian republics.

The person who bears the gonfalon is a gonfalonier.

Example: Major Hogan to Richard Sharpe in Sharpe's Rifles (1993): "But now, at dawn tomorrow, with the help of my agent Commandante Teresa, who I believe you've met, I want you to seize the chapel at Torre Castro and hold it against all comers until Major Vivar has raised the gonfalon of Santiago over the chapel roof."

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