AskDefine | Define saltire

Dictionary Definition

saltire n : a cross with diagonal bars of equal length [syn: St. Andrew's cross]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Saltire



  1. an ordinary (geometric design) in the shape of an X. It usually occupies the entire field in which it is placed.

Extensive Definition

St Andrew's Cross redirects here. For the item of BDSM furniture, see Saint Andrew's Cross (BDSM)
A saltire, Saint Andrew's Cross, or crux decussata (though it is never called the latter in heraldry), is a heraldic symbol in the form of a diagonal cross or letter X. Saint Andrew is said to have been martyred on such a cross.
It forms the national Flag of Scotland and Flag of Jamaica, and appears on many other flags, arms and seals. It is also used as a traffic sign and a form of BDSM furniture.


A saltire is an X-shaped ordinary in heraldry. Like other ordinaries, a single saltire is throughout — extending to the edges of the field — unless it is blazoned as couped (cut off). When two or more saltires appear, they are necessarily couped, and need not be so described explicitly.
A saltorel is a narrow saltire; the term is usually defined as one-half the width of the saltire, and is a relatively recent "innovation". This is apparently different from a fillet saltire. A field that is party per saltire is divided into four areas by x-shaped cuts. If two tinctures are specified, the first refers to the areas above and below the X, and the second refers to the ones on either side. Otherwise, each of the four divisions may be blazoned separately, the sequence being then top, left, right, bottom.
The phrase in saltire is used in two ways: to describe two charges, such as the keys in the arms of many entities associated with Saint Peter, crossing each other diagonally; or for five or more charges, one in the center and one or more on each arm of an invisible saltire.
Three saltires couped appear in the arms and flag of Amsterdam, and a saltire is used by a supporter of the royal arms of Scotland. The flag traditionally attributed to the Kingdom of Mercia was a gold saltire on a light blue background. Thus, Azure a saltire Or are now the arms of the City and District of St Albans.


The Flag of Scotland, called The Saltire or St Andrew's Cross, is a blue field with a white saltire; according to tradition, it represents Saint Andrew, who is supposed to have been crucified on a cross of that form (called a crux decussata) at Patras. The St Andrew's Cross was worn as a badge on hats in Scotland, on the day of the feast of St Andrew. It is the oldest continuously used sovereign flag in the world, having been in use since AD 832.
Numerous flags are inspired by the saltire and the colours blue and white—mostly connected with Scotland or Russia, where Saint Andrew is the national patron saint. The naval ensign of the Imperial Russian (1696-1917) and Russian navies (1991-present) is a blue saltire on a white field. Prior to the Union the Royal Scots Navy used a red ensign incorporating the St Andrew's Cross. This ensign is now commonly flown as part of an unofficial civil ensign in Scottish waters. The blue saltire on white design is featured on the Coat of Arms of Nova Scotia, Canada and its flag (Nova Scotia was originally a Scottish colony), but the blue used for Nova Scotia is generally a light blue. Similarly, the flags of the Spanish island of Tenerife and the remote Colombian islands of San Andrés and Providencia also use a white saltire on a blue field.
The Flag of Scotland forms one of the three crosses that are superimposed to form the Union Flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. (The other two are St George's Cross [representing England] and St Patrick's Cross [representing Ireland].)
The design of the St Andrew's Cross was also a major inspiration for several other flags, including the flag of Jamaica and the Confederate Battle Flag and Naval Jack used during the American Civil War (see Flags of the Confederate States of America). The Confederate battle flag is derived from the Scottish heritage held by many of the wealthy landowners of the old South. However, the designer of the Confederate battle flag, William Porcher Miles, never claimed it to be a St. Andrew's cross design, but rather a heraldic saltire without religious symbolism.
Other saltire flags include the flags of Alabama, Florida, Jamaica, Grenada, Jersey, Amsterdam, Potchefstroom and Valdivia.

Other uses


A saltire is the conventional road sign used to indicate the point at which a railway line intersects a road at a level crossing.
A white saltire on a blue background (or black on yellow for temporary signs) is displayed in UK railway signalling as a "cancelling indicator" for the Automatic Warning System or AWS, informing the driver that the received warning can be disregarded.
In Cameroon, a red "X" placed on illegally constructed buildings scheduled for demolition is occasionally referred to as a "St Andrew's Cross". It is usually accompanied by the letters "A.D." ("à détruire" - French for "to be demolished") and a date or deadline.

Gallery of saltires


saltire in Asturian: Cruz de San Andrés
saltire in Bulgarian: Андреевски кръст
saltire in Catalan: Sautor
saltire in Czech: Ondřejský kříž
saltire in Danish: Andreaskors
saltire in German: Andreaskreuz
saltire in Spanish: Cruz de San Andrés
saltire in French: Croix de saint André
saltire in Croatian: Andrijin križ
saltire in Italian: Decusse
saltire in Latin: Crux decussata
saltire in Lithuanian: Andriaus kryžius
saltire in Hungarian: Andráskereszt
saltire in Dutch: Andreaskruis
saltire in Japanese: 聖アンデレ十字
saltire in Japanese: サルタイアー (紋章学)
saltire in Norwegian: Andreaskors
saltire in Polish: Krzyż świętego Andrzeja
saltire in Portuguese: Sautor
saltire in Russian: Андреевский крест
saltire in Slovenian: Andrejev križ
saltire in Serbian: Андрејин крст
saltire in Swedish: Andreaskors
saltire in Chinese: 圣安德鲁十字
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