The coat of arms was originally painted on warriors’ shields during the Middle Ages, according to HenryChiles.com. These distinctive markings helped prevent soldiers from killing their comrades. The brightly colored patterns identified one clan from another.

Name

Family crests, while put on shields, were also stitched into cloth surcoats (an outer coat or cloak, or a tunic worn over armor). This is where the term “coat of arms” originated.

Popularity

The coat of arms became more popular as years passed, which made the likelihood of two families using the same symbols much higher. Records were then kept that gave each knight permission to use certain symbols.

Banners

Colors and geometric shapes used in banners were sometimes brought into the coat of arms, according to HenryChiles.com. These shapes and colors sometimes linked families to specific fiefdoms.

Symbols

The symbols on the coat of arms each have a specific meaning. Bees symbolize efficiency, for instance, according to fleurdelis.com, and the axe signifies the execution of military duty.

Colors

The colors present on a coat of arms have meaning, according to fleurdelis.com. Gold represents elevation of the mind of generosity, and black represents grief or constancy.