World flags are diverse and astonishing. Each of them has its own story and culture. This can be verified by looking at the flags of Asia, Africa, Europe, Oceania, North and South America. Some flags are full with hidden symbolism while others are designed to reflect certain historical events, but each flag has its own features and characteristics.
There are several distinctive features by which it would be appropriate to classify flags. These include:
- Flag shape (sides ratio);
- The predominant color on the flag (which color takes most of the space);
- Color set on the flag (Pan-African, Pan-Slavic, Pan-Arab colors);
- Color separation type (bicolor, tricolor);
- Flag adoption period (year of adoption);
- Color symbolism: the same color can mean different things on different flags. For example, green can symbolize: natural resources, Islam, hope and so on.
- Symbol used on the flag (for example: a star / stars, cross / Scandinavian cross, crescent, circle, etc.);
- Number of colors on the flag.
The classification presented below is based solely on the color separation type. It includes all the 195 countries of the world.
In the first group we will put flags with a monochrome background. Currently, there are no pure one-color flags.
But there are eight flags that use one symbol on a monochrome background. These are flags of: Switzerland, that uses a white cross; Albania, that uses a black double-headed eagle; Vietnam, Somalia and Morocco, that have one star; and Japan, Bangladesh and Palau, that use a circle symbolizing the Sun.
Also, a subgroup can be identified among the monochrome — sophisticated monochrome flags with multiple or difficult symbols. This group includes the thirteen remaining monochrome flags:
The next big group includes flags with two evenly distributed colors. Usually such flags include symbols, but there are also four pure horizontal bicolors.
Bicolors can be divided into horizontal and vertical.
There are significantly more horizontal bicolors in the world, therefore they can be divided into several groups: horizontal bicolors with a canton, pure horizontal bicolors and horizontal bicolors with a symbol in the center.
Three Vertical Stripes
This group can also be divided into several subgroups. The same type of flag division into three stripes will unite the subgroups.
Pure three stripes flags, in turn, can be divided based on the color of the central stripe: yellow or white.
The next subgroup in addition to three vertical stripes includes a coat of arms or a symbol in the center of the flag. To illustrate, let’s distinguish flags with the same color of the outer stripes — flags of Barbados and Peru, Pan-African flags with a star in the center and the remaining flags with a coat of arms in the center. Excluding only the Afghan flag, whose coat of arms is colored into white in order to be seen on the red color. Other colors of this subgroup have a completely identical coat of arms on their flags to their original one.
The next subgroup is called the “Canadian pale” in honor of the Canadian flag, or, more specifically, due to its type of color division. The stripes ratio in this case is different from the usual 1/3 and is equal to 1/2 of the flag’s length. Initially, the Canadian pale meant a square in the middle and vertical stripes on the sides half the size of the square. But later, any flag with a wide stripe in the middle was called as a Canadian pale. This type of division has spread widely enough, but among fully recognized sovereign states such flags are used by only two countries: St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Canada itself.
We will also attribute the flag of Mongolia to the vertical three stripes group, whose does not fit into the rest of this group due to the peculiar position of the state symbol — the Soyombo symbol. It is a relatively ancient Hindu-Buddhist symbol popular in this country.
Three Horizontal Stripes
Flags of this type are the most popular in the world, in one way or another there are around 55 of such flags.
The first subgroup includes pure three horizontal stripes flags. Such division on its flag is used by thirteen countries, nine of which are European.
The next subgroup is the largest — flags with three stripes and a coat of arms or a symbol are used by 19 countries in the world.
Flags of Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon and Libya can be put in a separate subgroup. These flags are similar to the Canadian pale and the only difference is that they are horizontally oriented.
Another subgroup is formed by Serbian and Slovakian flags — these Slavic countries use tricolors with their coat of arms at the flagpole, Pan-Slavic colors are typical for them.
Latvian flag is unique in its division; flags of Colombia, Ecuador and Rwanda can be put in one subgroup, that has a special division of colors — tricolors with a wide upper stripe. Flags of Israel, North Korea, Belize and Spain have two stripes at the top and bottom. And flags of Malawi, Uzbekistan, Slovenia and Iran are different from all of the mentioned groups and subgroups.
Flags of Botswana and Gambia form a small subgroup with an edging of the center line.
The same group, but with a coat of arms or a symbol in the center has three flags: Suriname, Kenya and Swaziland.
The Diagonal Division
There are plenty of diagonal flags in the world. But it is difficult to identify a clear pattern, since each state has a different diagonal, but, nevertheless, certain patterns can be allocated.
The first subgroup includes two flags: flag of Namibia and of the DRC. Both diagonal stripes have an edging and a canton symbol.
There are quite many other diagonal flags — nine.
Flags of this group are also unique and are put in this group in the absence of a pair, although certain similarities can be noted — flags are symmetric with respect to different axes or almost symmetrical.
Flags with a canton are also quite popular in the world.
A separate subgroup of Samoa and Tonga flags will be noted, which are completely monochrome except for the canton.
The next group is likely a result of a chance, rather than of a pattern. Because nine stripes on the flag of Uruguay represent nine regions and nine stripes on the flag of Greece, depending on different interpretations, symbolize the muses of arts and sciences or the syllables of the motto of Greece.
As for the rest, a canton is used quite often, usually denoting the former colonial past of the country.
Vertical Stripe at the Flagpole
This group of flags is not so numerous: flags of Guinea-Bissau, Benin and Madagascar.
The remaining flags with a vertical stripe at the flagpole or closer to the flagpole are also quite unique. Among these are flags with a pattern at the flagpole: flag of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan; flags that use a clean stripe: flag of Pakistan, Portugal, Oman and the United Arab Emirates; and the Sri Lankan flag which is difficult to categorize somehow.
The Scandinavian Cross
The Nordic group traditionally uses this type of division.
This small group can be divided into two subgroups: the Scandinavian Cross and an inner Scandinavian Cross.
The cross of these flags symbolizes Christianity and its arrangement is probably due to the fact that the flags were hung not horizontally but vertically and they were much longer.
Flags With a Separating Triangle
There are also quite a lot of flags with a separating triangle. The first subgroup will include bicolors with a symbol on the triangle.
The next subgroup includes two Arab and one island states:
A similar group includes: Mozambique, whose flag displays the Kalashnikov rifle; and a young state — South Sudan.
A significant number of flags use the separating triangle with a different arrangement of the elements and the number of stripes.
Bicolors With a Triangles Division
This group has only two neighboring Arab states — Bahrain and Qatar.
In general, a large number of colors is typical for the African states: Mauritius, Central African Republic, Uganda. Also, five stripes are used by Thailand and Costa Rica.
Others With Angles
This group includes flags that do not fit other groups, but that have several angles in their division: Nepal, Antigua and Barbuda, Seychelles, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kuwait.
This group has flags with a horizontal division that is not common to other groups. The island states: Cape Verde, Nauru and Kiribati.
It is time to take a look at the map of the world flags and, perhaps, draw some personal conclusions: