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A famous early example of canting arms: the castle representing the Kingdom of Castile and the lion representing the Kingdom of León.[1]

Canting arms are heraldic bearings that represent the bearer's name (or, less often, some attribute or function) in a visual pun or rebus.

The expression derives from the latin cantare (to sing). French heralds used the term armes parlantes (English: "talking arms"), as they would sound out the name of the armiger. Many armorial allusions require research for elucidation because of changes in language and dialect that have occurred over the past millennium.

Canting arms – some in the form of rebuses – are quite common in German civic heraldry. They have also been increasingly used in the 20th century among the British royal family.[citation needed] When the visual representation is expressed through a rebus, this is sometimes called a rebus coat of arms.[citation needed] An in-joke among the Society for Creative Anachronism heralds is the pun, "Heralds don't pun; they cant."[2]

Examples of canting arms

Personal coats of arms

A famous example of canting arms are those of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother's paternal family, the Bowes-Lyon family. The arms (pictured below) contain the bows and blue lions that make up the arms of the Bowes and Lyon families.

Municipal coats of arms

Municipal coats of arms which interpret the town's name in rebus form are also called canting. Here are a few examples.

Ecclesiastical coats of arms

See also


  1. ^ "Tinctures".
  2. ^ Neznanich, Modar. "Heraldry for Those Who Cant" (PDF). Retrieved 2 July 2012. Cites 72 historical examples of canting arms, as well as SCA usage.
  3. ^ Englefield, Eric (1979). Flags. Ward Lock. p. 104.
  4. ^ Room, Adrian (1988). Dictionary Of Place Names In The British Isles. Bloomsbury. p. 128. ISBN 9780747501701.
  5. ^ Suomen kunnallisvaakunat (in Finnish). Suomen Kunnallisliitto. 1982. p. 139. ISBN 951-773-085-3.
  6. ^ Schneider, Klaus-Michael. "Municipality of Manacor". Flags of the World. CRW Flags. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
  7. ^ "Bishop Boyea arms". Diocese of Lansing. Roman Catholic Diocese of Lansing. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  8. ^ "Bishop Barres arms". Diocese of Rockville Centre. Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre. Archived from the original on 27 July 2018. Retrieved 26 July 2018.