What Is a Family Crest?

by Zachary Fenell

Technically, the term family crest refers to the image that appears on the helmet of a family’s coat of arms, a family symbol that dates back to the medieval time period. However, over the years, the term family crest has become a synonym for coat of arms. (See References 2)


In medieval times, a coat of arms would be granted to an individual. The individual passed down the coat of arms to family descendants, turning the coat of arms into a family symbol. (See References 2)


Warriors used to wear their family crest into battle to show pride. The family crest also helped to identify any causalities of battle. (See References 1)


Family crests come in seven colors--gold, silver, black, red, blue, green and purple. The family crest’s color represents the family’s charge (role in society). (See References 1)


The images on a family’s coat of arms represents that family’s supposed characteristics. For examples, a unicorn symbolizes purity, and a boar symbolizes endurance and courage. (See References 3)


You can go to various websites to view your family crest. Go to websites such as House of Names and All Family Crests (both links can be found under resources), and type in your last name to view your family’s coat of arms. (See Resources 1 and 2)

About the Author

Zachary Fenell is a 2009 graduate of Notre Dame College of Ohio. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication with minors in philosophy and writing. Fenell has been writing since 2002, when he joined his high school newspaper, "The Arc Light." In college Fenell won awards for excellence in English and communication.

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