Nov. 14 (Thursday)

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You know what they say about history repeating itself. Since history is such a big part of flag culture, we might expect flags to in a sense repeat themselves, too.

For example, compare the two flags below. Everyone recognizes the United States’ flag, but what country is represented by the flag on the right?

United States Liberia

The African nation of Liberia. The similarity isn’t a coincidence; the U.S. flag inspired Liberia’s design.

That’s what I mean by a flag pattern, though flag patterns aren’t necessarily limited to two flags.

Understanding flag patterns can help us not just identify flags but even understand history. If you’re familiar with the major flag patterns, you can trace many flags to Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Scandinavia, the British-French-Spanish-U.S. empires, the Southern Hemisphere and the states, provinces and prefectures of the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia and Japan.

Let’s take a look at some major flag patterns, beginning with a very broad pattern...

Global Awakening Colors

The six colors most commonly used on flags are red, white, blue, green, yellow and black. These six primary flag colors can be divided into two categories – 1) red, white and blue (super popular, used on flags around the world) and 2) green, yellow and black (a little less popular).


You can’t really identify a flag based on a single color, and you probably won’t have better luck even with a combination of colors. However, it’s helpful to remember that green, yellow and black are normally associated with developing countries, formerly known as the “third world.” I’m not aware of a popular term for these colors, so let’s tentatively call them the Global Awakening colors. (More than developing nations, some of these countries are evolving into very powerful entities and are more actively fighting to throw off the yoke of imperialism, particularly standing up to the United States and other capitalist powers. I refer to this process as a “global awakening.”)

Forget the flags of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Israel. You can also forget European flags, with twelve notable exceptions pictured below, from left to right: (top row) Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Hungary; (bottom row) Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Ukraine, Vatican City

Albania Belgium Bulgaria Estonia Germany Hungary
Ireland Italy Lithuania Portugal Ukraine Vatican City

However, just three of the flags pictured above sport two of these Global Awakening colors. The flags of Belgium and Germany both use red, yellow and black, while Lithuania’s flag is red, green and yellow.

Belgium Germany Lithuania

The Global Awakening colors are more popular in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and among island states. Moreover, flags from these regions often feature two or even all three of these colors.

And that’s our first flag pattern. Use the links at the top of the page to learn about some more specific flag patterns.

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