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A Word A Day — oriflamme

August 07, 2012

Word of the Day

  • oriflamme
  • audio pronunciation
  • \OR-uh-flam\


: a banner, symbol, or ideal inspiring devotion or courage

For many Americans, the photograph of the Iwo Jima flag raising served as an oriflamme and a reminder of the sacrifices and courage of the American servicemen.

“Researchers now think there's a da Vinci painting underneath. The Italian phrase on that little oriflamme, or battle banner, is what reporters say inspired today's search by contemporary engineer Maurizio Seracini.” — From an article by Robert Morrison in The Examiner (Washington, DC), April 4, 2012


The original “oriflamme” was the banner of Saint Denis, a patron saint of France who is said to have been the first bishop of Paris. Middle English speakers referred to this red or reddish orange banner using the Middle French term “oriflamble,” from Old French “ori flambe,” meaning “small flag.” From the 12th to the 15th centuries, French kings carried the banner into battle as a way of inspiring their troops. This tactic met with such success that, by 1600, English speakers were using “oriflamme” to refer to any group's rallying symbol.

From Merriam-Webster Online at

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