A roundel in heraldry is a small disk used as a charge on a shield. In continental heraldry they are generally just termed roundels of such-and-such a colour, but in English heraldry special names are used for each one.

In the common colours:
A bezant is a roundel or (gold).
A plate is a roundel argent (silver).
A torteau is a roundel gules (red).
A hurt is a roundel azure (blue).
A pomeis is a roundel vert (green).
A pellet or ogress or gunstone is a roundel sable (black).

And with the rare colours:
A golpe is a roundel purpure (purple).
An orange is a roundel tenné (orange).
A guze is a roundel sanguine (maroon).

A roundel divided into a wavy white and blue representation of water is called a fountain. (In families called Sykes the fountain is termed a syke: one of those quaint prerogatives or affections that pop up in heraldry.)

A voided roundel (one with the centre cut out to leave only a ring) is termed an annulet.

Tiefling mentions that a torteau is also called a gout and a field semé (sewn or strewn) with them is called gouty. My source (Fox-Davies) doesn't mention this under roundels, but under semé discusses the goutte or drop; a field semé of gouttes is termed goutté or gutté and would look almost identical to a field semé of roundels. Once more, continental heraldry simply names the colour but British heraldry has special names: so goutté gules (red) is blazoned as goutté-de-sang (dropped with blood).

Also, a poem by Dorothy Parker:

She's passing fair; but so demure is she,
So quiet is her gown, so smooth her hair,
That few there are who note her and agree
She's passing fair.

Yet when was ever beauty held more rare
Than simple heart and maiden modesty?
What fostered charms with virtue could compare?

Alas, no lover ever stops to see;
The best that she is offered is the air.
Yet- if the passing mark is minus D-
She's passing fair.

The term roundel is used in modern times to refer to insignia markings on military aircraft. As in the heraldic use, a roundel is a circular design, usually but not always with features of concentric rings of varying colors, used to identify the nationality and/or service of a military aircraft. These were first seen in World War I, when military aircraft sported them on the top and bottom of their outboard wing edges so that the aircraft could be distinguished from their opponents in close battle, or by ground-based gunners. They were also placed on the vertical stabilizer, and on either side of the fuselage aft of the cockpit.

They have remained in use to the modern day. Some militaries use more complex insignia, and the base roundel has been modified by additional elements - for example, while in WW2 the Japanese and English used classic roundels for identification, the U.S. military - after deciding in 1943 that the biggest differentiator for recognition wasn't the color but shape - added a rectangular white banner to theirs. The German Luftwaffe used a Balkenkreuz (beam cross, or bar cross as it consisted of straight lines unlike the Iron Cross of WWI) insignia, without the roundel component.

Roun"del (?), n. [OF. rondel a roundelay, F. rondel, rondeau, a dim. fr. rond; for sense 2, cf. F. rondelle a round, a round shield. See Round, a., and cf. Rondel, Rondelay.]

1. Mus.

A rondelay.

"Sung all the roundel lustily."


Come, now a roundel and a fairy song. Shak.


Anything having a round form; a round figure; a circle.

The Spaniards, casting themselves into roundels, . . . made a flying march to Calais. Bacon.

Specifically: (a)

A small circular shield, sometimes not more than a foot in diameter, used by soldiers in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries

. (b) Her.

A circular spot; a sharge in the form of a small circle

. (c) Fort.

A bastion of a circular form



© Webster 1913.

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