crest

crest, in feudal livery, an ornament of the headpiece that afforded protection against a blow. The term is incorrectly used to mean family coat of arms. Crests were widely used in the 13th cent. by feudal chiefs, as they had been by ancient Greek warriors and the Roman centurions. The earlier forms were usually of stuffed leather, gilded, silvered, or painted; later they were of wood or metal. The crest came to be used in heraldry, first only by persons of high rank, then by all those entitled to a coat of arms. It surmounts the escutcheon; its colors are those of the coat of arms. The dragon, wivern, and plume of feathers are common crests. The lion, used by Edward III of England, remains the crest of the English sovereigns. See also blazonry.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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