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White pennon on a knight’s lance (upper left-hand corner)
Norman pennons from the Bayeux Tapestry


Anglo-Norman penun, penoun, from Old French penne (feather) + -on diminutive suffix.



pennon (plural pennons)

  1. A thin, often triangular flag or streamer, especially as hung from the end of a lance or spear.[1]
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queen, London: William Ponsonbie, Book 2, Canto 3, p. 227,[2]
      Her yellow lockes crisped, like golden wyre,
      About her shoulders weren loosely shed,
      And when the winde emongst them did inspyre,
      They waued like a penon wyde dispred
      And low behinde her backe were scattered:
    • c. 1598, William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act III, Scene 5,[3]
      Bar Harry England, that sweeps through our land
      With pennons painted in the blood of Harfleur:
    • 1820, Walter Scott, Ivanhoe, Edinburgh: Archibald Constable, 1821, Volume 1, Chapter 7, p. 103,[4]
      [] in spite of a sort of screen intended to protect them from the wind, the flame of the torches streamed sideways into the air, like the unfurled pennon of a chieftain.
    • 1846, Herman Melville, Typee, New York: Wiley and Putnam, Part 1, Chapter 23, p. 214,[5]
      Precisely in the middle of the quadrangle were placed perpendicularly in the ground, a hundred or more slender, fresh-cut poles, stripped of their bark, and decorated at the end with a floating pennon of white tappa;
    • 1863, Christina Rossetti, “A Royal Princess” in Isa Craig (ed.), An Offering to Lancashire, London: Emily Faithfull, p. 3,[6]
      Vassal counts and princes follow where his pennon goes,
    • 1909, Charles Henry Ashdown, British and Foreign Arms and Armour, London: T.C. & E.C. Jack, Chapter 5, pages 65-66,[7]
      Nearly all the Norman spears were embellished with pennons of from two to five points.
  2. (nautical) A long pointed streamer or flag on a vessel.
    Synonym: pennant
    • 1631, Michael Drayton, The Battaile of Agincourt, London: William Lee, p. 21,[8]
      [...] a ship most neatly that was lim’d,
      In all her sailes with Flags and Pennons trim’d.
    • 1780, Hannah Cowley, The Maid of Arragon, London: L. Davis et al., [9]
      Fair Commerce wav’d her pennons in our ports;
    • 1886, Louisa May Alcott, Jo’s Boys, Boston: Roberts Brothers, Chapter 11, p. 208,[10]
      [] as his eye swept the horizon, clear against the rosy sky shone the white sails of a ship, so near that they could see the pennon at her mast-head and black figures moving on the deck.
  3. (literary, obsolete) A wing (appendage of an animal's body enabling it to fly); any of the outermost primary feathers on a wing.
    Synonym: pinion
    • 1630, Henry Lord, A Display of Two Forraigne Sects in the East Indies, London: Francis Constable, “The Religion of the Persees,” Chapter 4, p. 16,[11]
      [] sodainly there descended before him, as his face was bent towards the earth, an Angell, whose wings had glorious Pennons, and whose face glistered as the beames of the Sunne,
    • 1667, John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 2, lines 933-934,[12]
      Fluttring his pennons vain plumb down he [Satan] drops
      Ten thousand fadom deep,
    • 1751, Moses Mendez, “Summer” in The Seasons, p. 11,[13]
      Favonius gentle skims along the Grove,
      And sheds sweet Odors from his Pennons light.

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ John Cowell, The Interpreter: or Booke containing the signification of words wherein is set foorth the true meaning of all, Cambridge: John Legate, 1607: “Penon, [] is a Standard, Banner, or Ensigne, caried in warre.”[1]



pennon m (plural pennons)

  1. pennon (triangular flag)
  2. (nautical) pennant
  3. (historical) a local urban militia in medieval Lyon

Derived terms[edit]