Heraldic Fish

Heraldic fish and the other forms of aquatic heraldry are listed as fish. Everything from the Barbel to the Whiting, with their meanings when known.

Fish frequently occur in punning arms, yet they were very popular among the symbols of heraldry.

Fish ~ what do they symblize?

  • a true and generous mind
  • to be virtuous for oneself but not because of heritage
  • unity with Christ and spiritual nourishment

At one time, anything that lived in the water was called fish. That’s how people thought of them when heraldry became popular. They classified them as fish, so I will also.

This includes shellfish ~ crab, lobster, crayfish, clams. Whales, sea urchins, sea lion, and sea horses are also categorized with fish. Alligators, Crocodiles, Otters, Frogs, Toads, and Salamanders are found with the General Heraldic Animals.

So here’s the heraldic fish ~ big and small, fearful and ferocious, the known and the not so well known ~

  • Barbel ~ meaning uncertain

    Image courtesy Charles Boutell

  • Bass ~ meaning uncertain

  • Birt ~ see Turbo

  • Bret ~ see Turbo

  • Burbot ~ meaning uncertain

  • Butt [in Yarmouth] ~ see Turbo

  • Carp [Mogul] ~ dignity, youth, bravery, perseverance, strength

  • Carter [in Cornwall] ~ see Turbo

  • Cod ~ Haddock, Hake, Ling, Merlucius, Pike of the Sea, Whiting ~ meaning uncertain

  • Coney ~ meaning uncertain, not to be confused with a coney rabbit

  • Crab ~ great strength and power in gripping

    Image courtesy Stock Exchange Keria Bishop

  • Dolphin [in heraldry, scaled, bright colors or green and red] ~ charity and a kind affection towards children, swiftness, diligence, salvation. Of all the heraldic fish, from ancient times, this was considered the chief of fish.

    Image courtesy Charles Boutell

    The term ‘Conché’ refers to a dolphin curved around with the head nearly touching the tail, like a spiral Conch shell

    Image courtesy Heraldica

  • Eel ~ meaning uncertain

    Image courtesy New Gaso

  • Eperlan ~ see Sparling

  • Flatfish ~ see Sole

  • Flook, Fluke [in Scotland] ~ see Turbo

  • Flounder ~ see Turbo

  • Flying Fish ~ meaning uncertain

    Image courtesy James Parker

  • Garvin ~ see Herring

  • Ged ~ see Pike

  • Grayling ~ see Sparling

  • Haddock ~ see Cod

    Image courtesy James Parker

  • Hake ~ see Cod

  • Herring [also regionally called Garvin, Pelzer, Pilchard, Pilchardus, Spalding, Sprat] ~ meaning uncertain

    Image courtesy James Parker

  • Lang ~ a type of Cod

    Image courtesy James Parker

  • Lobster ~ meaning uncertain

    Image courtesy Heraldry WS

    Lobster Claw

    Image courtesy James Parker

  • Luce or Lucy ~ a type of Perch

    Image courtesy Charles Boutell

  • Merlucius ~ see Cod

  • Mogul ~ see Carp

  • Octopus

    Image courtesy Dragon Azure

  • Old Man of the Sea ~ see Shrimp

  • Ombre ~ see Sparling

  • Pelzer ~ see Herring

  • Pike [Ged] ~ meaning uncertain

    Image courtesy James Parker

  • Pike of the Sea ~ see Cod

  • Pilchard, Pilchardus ~ see Herring

  • Prawns ~ see Shrimp

  • Salmon ~ wisdom, knowledge, strength, beauty, due to the mysterious return to their birthplace ~ eternity

    Image courtesy James Parker

    Legend tells their knowledge comes from eating the red hazelnuts of wisdom that fell into the water, thus the red spots on their belly. Salmon is a Royal Fish. Salmon fishing rights are retained and dispensed by the Crown.

  • Scallop ~ see shell

  • Sea Horse ~ power of the water

    Image courtesy James Parker

  • Sea Lion ~ dauntless courage at sea

    Image courtesy James Parker

  • Sea Urchin ~ meaning uncertain

    Image courtesy James Parker
  • Seal [sea-calf, sea-wolf, sea-bear] ~ dauntless courage at sea

    Image courtesy Wikipedi

  • Shark ~ meaning uncertain

    Image courtesy Wikipedia

  • Shell

    The Scallop ~ see The Heraldic Scallop

    The Whelk

    Image courtesy Wikipedia

    Image courtesy James Parker

  • Shrimp ~ [Prawns, Old Men of the Sea as their long antennae and curved spine resemble old men] ~ long life, with the prayer that one might live long enough for their spine to curve like a shrimp

  • Smelt ~ see Sparling

  • Sole [Flatfish] ~ plenitude, liberality, charity

    Image courtesy James Parker

  • Spalding ~ see Herring

  • Sparling [Scottish name for Eperlan, Grayling, ombre, smelt] ~ a small fish

  • Sprat ~ see Herring

  • Squid ~ see Octopus

  • Starfish ~ Mary guiding the faithful through the storms of live, undying power of love

  • Sturgeon [Royal fish, served on a bed of roses by the Romans, symbol of Aphrodite, all sturgeon were the property of the king and either the fish or its value had to be paid if a sturgeon was caught] ~ longevity, permanence, stability, Royal favor

  • Trout [truite] ~ meaning uncertain

    Image courtesy James Parker

  • Turbo, Turbot [Birt, Bret, Butt, Carter, Flook, Flounder, Fluke] ~ used in English heraldry for the name

    Image courtesy James Parker

    Demi-Turbot erect tail upwards

    Image courtesy James Parker

  • Vorant ~ one fish, particularly a dolphin, swallowing another whole fish, also engoulant or ingullant

  • Walrus ~ meaning uncertain

    Image courtesy All States Flags

  • Whale [legend tells that the whale was sometimes mistaken for an island and ships would anchor to it. When the whale dove, the ship would be dragged down into the sea and destroyed] ~ a symbol of the devil and it's open mouth signified the 'Gates of Hell'.

    Image courtesy James Parker

    Image courtesy Wikipedia

  • Whiting ~ see Cod
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