The Color Vert

Vert is green in heraldry. The Anglo-Norman name is straightforward, since "vert" means green in French (from the Latin viridis). But the name in French blason is "sinople". The etymology of this word is the town of Sinope, on the Black Sea coast of Anatolia (modern Turkey), famous for a reddish-brown earth pigment found in its soil. The adjective "sinopis" came to designate the color of that pigment (and it still does in English), much as the word "sienna" or "burnt sienna".

How this term came to designate green in heraldry is unclear. Originally, French blason used the same word as English, namely "vert". In the 14th century, vert is progressively replaced by "sinope" or "sinople". It may have been part of a general effort by heralds to enhance the prestige and mystique of their profession by making its language less comprehensible to laymen; a task at which they succeeded, one might add.

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Last modified: June 4, 1996

François R. Velde