show the flag

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show the flag (third-person singular simple present shows the flag, present participle showing the flag, simple past showed the flag, past participle shown the flag or (US also) showed the flag)

  1. (literally) To display the flag of one's country, especially as an expression of patriotic pride.
  2. (idiomatic) Of a naval vessel or military force, to identify itself by displaying the flag of its country of origin, especially in order to establish an authoritative presence and to exert diplomatic or political influence.
    • 1896, John Barrett, “America's Interest in Eastern Asia”, in North American Review, volume 162, number 472, pages 263–264:
      A few suggestions are given . . . maintaining an effective naval squadron to show the flag and protect American interests.
    • 1947 September 29, “Martin Lo”, in Time:
      On a routine cruise to "show the flag," the British warships Amphion and Contest steamed into the harbor of Santa Ana Island in the southern Solomons (which are under a British protectorate).
    • 2008, BioWare, Mass Effect, Redwood City: Electronic Arts, →ISBN, →OCLC, PC, scene: Starships: Cruisers Codex entry:
      Cruisers perform routine independent "show the flag" patrols in settled systems and lead flotillas of frigates in small engagements, such as pirate suppression campaigns.
  3. (idiomatic, by extension) To represent one's country or some other group in a manner intended to suggest the authority or importance of that country or group.
    • 1980 January 28, “‘Who Lost Afghanistan?’”, in Time:
      Henry Kissinger stopped off in Kabul to show the flag for a few hours in 1974.
    • 2004 January 19, “Bush operatives moving to primary states”, in CNN, retrieved 4 Jan. 2009:
      The Bush–Cheney re-election campaign will send a high-profile team of surrogates to both Iowa and New Hampshire in the coming days to train and motivate Republican activists and to "show the flag" in states in which the Democratic presidential race has dominated political debate.


  • German: Flagge zeigen (calque)

See also[edit]