Sailor Speak of the Week – Ensign

Definition

Noun

  • A national flag.
  • The lowest commissioned officer rank in many navies and coast guards.

Origin

16th century. From French, ensigne, and previously, Latin, insignia, meaning badge.

Comments

In terms of flags, there are a variety of different types of ensigns. Usually, they denote the nationality of a vessel and are flown from the stern. A naval ensign is usually different from a state’s national flag (standard). Government and/or naval vessels (e.g. U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy) fly specific ensigns as a visual symbol of their authority or naval affiliation.

With regards to the officer’s rank, the term was adopted from army parlance where the ensign was a particular junior officer who carried the regimental colors (flag). Although, such positions and titles have been abolished in some armies. In the English language, ensign is a rank generally associated with navies rather than armies. In many naval services and coast guards, an Ensign (or the equivalent lowest commissioned officer rank) is denoted by a single gold braid on their dress uniforms.

References

Rogers, J.G. (1985). Origins of Sea Terms. Mystic Seaport Museum.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s