The word blazon is derived from French blason, “shield.” It is found in English by the end of the 14th century. Formerly, experts in heraldry assumed that the word was related to the German verb blasen, “to blow (a horn).” Present-day lexicographers reject this theory as conjectural and disproved
As depicted below, a “coat of arms” consists of several parts: the shield, the mantling, the helm, the wreath, charges, and the crest (note that not all arms have crests). The official, written description of the coat of arms is called the “blazon of arms.” The blazon may seem like a foreign language, but it is simply a system of code words to denote colors, placement, and styling by using an economy of words.
The term “blason”, by which the science of heraldry is denoted in French, English, Italian, and German, is probably derived from the German word “blazen” — to blow the horn. This knowledge of the various devices and symbols was called Heraldry, and as the announcement was accompanied with the sound of a trumpet, it was termed “blazoning the arms.” A blazon of arms is the description of the arms in heraldic terms.
The earliest coats of arms were fairly simple — bars or wavy lines, a lion rampant or an eagle displayed, or an arrangement of fleurs-de-lis. The designs became more complex as the years passed, and the practice of quartering (incorporating the arms of other families acquired through marriages) developed. Regardless of their origins, coats of arms became military status symbols, and their popularity increased along with the popularity of the tournament, which was developed in the mid-eleventh century in France.
The earliest coats of arms were fairly simple — bars or wavy lines, a lion rampant or an eagle displayed, or an arrangement of fleurs-de-lis. The designs became more complex as the years passed, and the practice of quartering (incorporating the arms of other families acquired through marriages) developed. By 1400 A.D., bearing a coat of arms had become a prerequisite to participation in a tournament, and due to the importance of social standing in such pageants, a coat of arms also became a mark of noble status.
Much of the printed design for a given coat of arms is more the artist’s preference or the style of a particular herald, and not a part of any particular blazon. The mantling and the banners for names and mottoes, for example, are not an official element of the blazon of arms. The helm, likewise, is not a part of the official blazon. Some historians attach a significance to the design of the helm or helmet as representative of a certain century or social status, but there are differences of opinion on this matter.