Word of the Week (191): VERDOY (probability 9476), by David Sutton

VERDOY is a term from heraldry, meaning 'charged with flowers as a bordure': it derives from the French verdoyé, the past participle of verdoyer, to make green. A charge in heraldry is any emblem or device occupying the field of an escutcheon, or heraldic shield.

There are strict rules in heraldry governing charges and colour combinations, similar to those mysterious rules that women have when it comes to interior decorating. I am assured, for example, by She Who Knows Best that orange and pink do not 'go together', though I have only to walk up the road in autumn to see a most beautiful pink-and-orange sunset.

Where was I... charges. A great variety of charges may appear on an escutcheon. They be geometric designs, animals, plants etc., and a good deal of technical vocabulary is associated with them. A BORDURE is a border touching the edge of the field. An ORLE is a border within a field, at a short distance from the edge but not touching it. A TRESSURE is a narrower version of the ORLE, often in the form of plaited lilies. A FESS or FESSE is a broad horizontal stripe across the centre of a field. A FLANCH is a curved line at the edge of a shield; note that this can also be a verb meaning to spread out. A GIRON or GYRON comprises two lines drawn from the edge of the escutcheon meeting at right angles in the fesse-point.

Of the numerous animal charges, let me just mention the ALERION or ALLERION, an eagle displayed without feet or beak, the LIONCEL, LIONCELLE or LIONEL, a small lion, and the WYVERN or LINDWORM, a two-legged dragon.


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