A tricolour is a flag
A flag is a piece of fabric with a distinctive design that is usually rectangular and used as a symbol, as a signaling device, or decoration. The term flag is also used to refer to the graphic design employed by a flag, or to its depiction in another medium.The first flags were used to assist...

 or banner
A banner is a flag or other piece of cloth bearing a symbol, logo, slogan or other message. Banner-making is an ancient craft.The word derives from late Latin bandum, a cloth out of which a flag is made...

 more-or-less equally divided (horizontally, vertically, or, less frequently, diagonally) into three bands of differing colours. The term is somewhat misleading, as many tricolours have more than three colours, as they are often charged
Charge (heraldry)
In heraldry, a charge is any emblem or device occupying the field of an escutcheon . This may be a geometric design or a symbolic representation of a person, animal, plant, object or other device...

 with contrasting emblems (the flag of India
Flag of India
The National flag of India is a horizontal rectangular tricolour of deep saffron, white and India green; with the Ashok Chakra, a 24-spoke wheel, in navy blue at its centre. It was adopted in its present form during a meeting of the Constituent Assembly held on 22 July 1947, when it became the...

 as a prominent example).

Besides carrying an emblem, another means by which a tricolour may have more than three colours is through the use of fimbriation
In heraldry and vexillology, fimbriation refers to small stripes of colour placed around common charges or ordinaries, usually in order for them to stand out from the background, but perhaps just because the designer felt it looked better, or for a more technical reason to avoid what would...

: the separation of colours on a flag by a narrow contrasting stripe. In a fimbriated tricolour, the three broad bands are separated by two thin stripes on either side of the central band. Flags of this type include the flags of Uzbekistan
Flag of Uzbekistan
The flag of Uzbekistan was approved at the Seventh Extraordinary Session of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Uzbekistan, on November 18, 1991.- Symbolism :According to the Uzbek embassy:...

, Kenya
Flag of Kenya
The flag of Kenya was officially adopted on December 12, 1963.-Symbolism:The Kenyan flag is based on that of Kenya African National Union. The colours symbolize black majority, red for the blood shed during the struggle for freedom, and green for Land; the white fimbriation was added later and...

, North Korea
Flag of North Korea
The flag of North Korea was adopted on September 8, 1948, as the national flag and ensign. The red star of Communism can be seen on this flag on a white disc. The flag was adopted in 1948, when Northern portion of Korea became a Communist state. The traditional Korean flag was red, white, and blue...

, and Gambia.

One of the first tricolours, and arguably the most famous, is the vertical tricolore
Flag of France
The national flag of France is a tricolour featuring three vertical bands coloured royal blue , white, and red...

 of France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...


Variety of triband

The tricolour is a specific type of triband
Triband (flag)
The triband is one of the most common designs of flag, and is the design of some 30% of all current national flags.As the name suggests, the main feature of the design of a triband is three parallel bands of colour. Many non-vexillologists use the term tricolour to describe these flags, but...

. In a triband, the design is of three vertical, horizontal, or diagonal stripes, often formed—from an heraldic point of view—by the placement of a vertical or horizontal stripe (a pale
Pale (heraldry)
A pale is a term used in heraldic blazon and vexillology to describe a charge on a coat of arms , that takes the form of a band running vertically down the center of the shield. Writers broadly agree that the width of the pale ranges from about one-fifth to about one-third of the width of the...

 or a fess
In heraldry, a fess or fesse is a charge on a coat of arms that takes the form of a band running horizontally across the centre of the shield. Writers disagree in how much of the shield's surface is to be covered by a fess or other ordinary, ranging from one-fifth to one-third...

, respectively), over a background. The triband may thus have two stripes of the same colour split by a stripe of a second colour (examples of this include the flags of Austria
Flag of Austria
The flag of Austria has three equal horizontal bands of red , white, and red.The Austrian triband is the second-oldest flag in use at least since 1230, after the Danish flag .- Origins :...

, Canada
Flag of Canada
The national flag of Canada, also known as the Maple Leaf, and , is a red flag with a white square in its centre, featuring a stylized 11-pointed red maple leaf. Its adoption in 1965 marked the first time a national flag had been officially adopted in Canada to replace the Union Flag...

, and Spain
Flag of Spain
The flag of Spain , as it is defined in the Spanish Constitution of 1978, consists of three horizontal stripes: red, yellow and red, the yellow stripe being twice the size of each red stripe...


In a tricolour, the two outer stripes are of different colours. They can thus be seen as a subset of tribands.

Additional meanings

Vexillology is the scholarly study of flags. The word is a synthesis of the Latin word vexillum, meaning 'flag', and the Greek suffix -logy, meaning 'study'. The vexillum was a particular type of flag used by Roman legions during the classical era; its name is a diminutive form of the word velum...

 also occasionally describe flags of which the main element is three stripes as being "based on a tricolour (or triband) design". Flags such as the flag of the Bahamas
Flag of the Bahamas
The flag of the Bahamas has an approximately 1:2 aspect ratio. The black equilateral triangle on the left represents the unity and determination of the people of the Bahamas. The triangle is oriented toward three equal-width stripes symbolizing areas of natural resource; two aquamarine stripes at...

 and the Palestinian flag
Palestinian flag
The Palestinian flag is based on the Flag of the Arab Revolt, and is used to represent the Palestinian people , and the Palestinian Authority.-Description:...

 fall into this category.

Some vexillologists take the meaning of the term at its barest, and simply use it to describe any flag containing just three colours, irrespective of the design. Thus, the flags of the United States
Flag of the United States
The national flag of the United States of America consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton bearing fifty small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars alternating with rows...

 and the United Kingdom
Flag of the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland uses as its national flag the royal banner known as the Union Flag or, popularly, Union Jack. The current design of the Union Flag dates from the union of Ireland and Great Britain in 1801...

 might be described as tricolours, while the flag of India (which has a blue charge in the centre) would not.


Horizontal charged


Vertical charged


See also

  • List of flags with three colours
  • List of countries by style of national flags
  • Pan-African colors
  • Pan-Arab colors
    Pan-Arab colors
    The Pan-Arab colors are black, white, green, and red. They were first combined in the flag of the Arab Revolt in 1916. They are used currently in the flags of Jordan, Kuwait, Palestinian Authority, Sahrawi Republic, Sudan, Libya and the United Arab Emirates. A sub-set of the Pan-Arab colors are...

  • Pan-Iranian colors
    Pan-Iranian colors
    The Pan-Iranian colors, green, white and red, are colors used on the flags of some countries and autonomous provinces inhabited by Iranian peoples...

  • Pan-Slavic colors
  • Triband (flag)
    Triband (flag)
    The triband is one of the most common designs of flag, and is the design of some 30% of all current national flags.As the name suggests, the main feature of the design of a triband is three parallel bands of colour. Many non-vexillologists use the term tricolour to describe these flags, but...

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