The colors red and white are the two most common flag colors in the world, with red appearing on 74% of all national flags and white appearing on 71% of all national flags. More than a dozen country flags, in fact, contain only the colors red and white. These countries can be further divided into two subgroups, one being countries with red and white striped flags and the other being those whose red and white flags use a design other than stripes.
|Austria||Gibraltar (UK territory)||Malta||Singapore|
|Bahrain||Greenland (Denmark territory)||Monaco||Switzerland|
|Canada||Hong Kong (China SAR)||Peru||Tonga|
|England (UK territory)||Japan||Qatar (murrey)*||Turkey|
* Note: The flags of Latvia and Qatar are technically not white and red, but rather white and murrey, a maroon-like color that some sources may not consider purely red. However, in the absence of a "white and murrey" category, most sources classify these flags as white and red.
First flown in the year 1230, the Austrian national flag is considered to be one of the oldest still in use. Austria's flag features three horizontal stripes, each 1/3 the height of the flag, stacked red (bottom), white (middle), and red again (top). The design is comparable to that of the flag of Latvia, but the Austrian flag's white stripe is larger and the red brighter. The Austrian Empire also flew a yellow and black flag during the 1800s.
The Persian Gulf country Bahrain first adopted its red and white flag, which features a red body and a left-justified, vertical white stripe separated by a serrated, sawtooth-like edge, in 1932. However, the serrated edge of that first flag featured 28 points, which was reduced to eight points in 1972 and further reduced to five points (arguably symbolic of the Five Pillars of Islam) in 2002. Bahrain's flag resembles that of Qatar, but the latter has more serrations, uses a darker maroon instead of red, and has an elongated aspect ratio.
Canada's national flag was adopted in 1965 and has since become one of the most iconic flags in the world. The Canadian flag consists of vertical red stripes on the left and right edges, each 1/4 the width of the flag, and a red maple leaf on a white background in the center. The flag of the United Kingdom, known informally as the Union Jack, is also an accepted flag in Canada, which is a former British colony and remains a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
It is believed that Denmark first introduced its red and white flag as a national banner in 1219, which would make Denmark's flag the oldest national flag still in use in the world. Denmark's flag design is both simple and unmistakable, with a red background (field) crossed by two thin white stripes, one bisecting the flag horizontally and the other running top to bottom just left of the center (closer to the hoist/flagpole edge). This arrangement of stripes is known as the Nordic or Scandinavian cross, and also appears on the flags of Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.
While the Union Jack's iconic blue and criss-crossing red and white stripes form the official flag of the United Kingdom, each of the UK's constituent countries also has its own official national flag. England's national flag features a white background field with a cross of thin red stripes, one horizontal and one vertical, dividing the background into four equal quadrants. Alternately known as Saint George's Cross, England's flag has its roots in the Crusades of the late 1100s, and over time came to symbolize not only the crusaders, but England itself.
Georgia's flag was designed in 1991, just after the former Soviet Union country gained its independence, but was not officially adopted until January of 2004. Georgia's flag is quite similar in design to the flag of England. Both flags have as their base a white field divided into four quadrants by a centered red cross—however, the Georgian flag uses a lighter color of red and expands on the design by adding a smaller red cross in each quadrant. This design has led to the Georgian flag's informal name, the five-cross flag.
The British overseas territory of Gibraltar is the only British territory whose flag is not a variation of the UK's Union Jack flag. Instead, Gibraltar opts for a white field with a red horizontal stripe across the bottom third of the flag and a red castle in the center, with a golden key hanging from its entrance. A handful of sources categorize Gibraltar's flag as white, red, black, and gold/yellow because these colors appear in the castle and key. However, most sources consider such multicolored emblems (such as Mexico's eagle), coats of arms, and national seals to be independent of color schemes. Gibraltar adopted its current flag in 1982.
The Danish territory Greenland sports one of the world's most unique flags. The top half of Greenland's flag features a field of white with a red half-circle lying a bit left of center (toward the hoist/flagpole edge) on the flag's "equator" line, almost like a setting sun. The lower half of the flag is a reverse-color mirror image of the top half, with a red field and a corresponding white semicircle facing upward toward the "equator". Adopted in 1985, the flag is known in Greenland as Erfalasorput ("our flag"), and is the only flag of a Nordic country that does not feature the Nordic cross.
Like fellow Eastern Asian countries Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam, the territory of Hong Kong—technically a Special Administrative Region of China—chose a flag with a circular central image instead of stripes. Hong Kong's flag features a red field with a five-petaled white orchid flower in the center. The orchid represents the Hong Kong orchid tree (Bauhinia x blakeana), but on the flag the blossom is stylized, with a slightly swirled design and a small five-pointed star on each petal. Hong Kong's flag was officially adopted in 1997, when the UK handed the territory back over to China, and its use is strictly regulated by law.
Indonesia's flag, titled the Sang Saka Merah-Putih ("lofty red and white"), is a simple bicolor whose top half is red and lower half is white. Originally flown (unlawfully) in Java in 1928, the flag was introduced upon the country's proclamation of independence from the Netherlands in 1945, and became official in 1950, once the country's sovereignty had become fully established. The colors red and white on Indonesia's flag date back to the late 1200s, when they were chosen as the banner colors of the Majapahit Empire.
Multiple points of view exist regarding the symbolism of the colors on Indonesia's national flag. One view states that red stands for physical life/the body and white for spiritual life/the soul, which combine to form the complete person. In another view, red symbolizes courage and white symbolizes purity. A third view holds that the red represents the earth/Mother Earth and white the sky/Father Sky. Indonesia's flag greatly resembles that of Monaco, with the only significant differences being that Indonesia's flag has a slightly wider aspect ratio (2:3 as opposed to Monaco's more squarish 4:5) and uses a lighter shade of red.
Easily one the world's most iconic and identifiable national flags, Japan's flag features a single red circle centered on a white field. Although the flag had been used by Japanese naval and merchant ships since 1870 and was clearly the unofficial national flag, it was not legally designated as the official Japanese flag until August 1999. The Japanese flag's official name is the nisshōki ("flag of the sun") and it is commonly called the hinomaru ("ball of the sun"), both references to the the role of the sun in Japanese culture and the country's nickname, the "Land of the Rising Sun".
The country of Latvia first adopted its flag, which features a single white stripe lying horizontally across the center of a maroon field, in 1918. The use of the flag was discontinued in 1940, as Latvia became absorbed into the Soviet Union. In 1990, however, Latvia reinstated the flag as part of the country's move to join the list of former Soviet Union countries. The dark red in Latvia's flag could be described more precisely as maroon or murrey, which could disqualify Latvia from the white-and-red category in the eyes of some sources. Latvia's flag is quite similar to the flag of Austria, but with a thinner white stripe and a darker, more maroon-like shade of red.
Monaco adopted its national flag, a bicolor design with a red top half and a white bottom half, in 1881, making it one of the oldest flag designs in the world. However, the colors red and white have been tied to Monaco's ruling house, the House of Grimaldi, since at least 1339. Monaco's flag bears a strong resemblance to the flag of Indonesia, the only major differences being that Monaco's flag uses a darker shade of red and has a more squarish aspect ratio of 4:5, as opposed to the 2:3 ratio used by Monaco's flag. Both flags are the reverse of the flag of Poland, a bicolor design with red on the bottom and white on top. Both also resemble the flag of Singapore, which duplicates the basic design but adds a distinctive moon-and-stars emblem in the upper left.
The flag of Peru features three equal vertical stripes of equal width: red on the left, white in the middle, and red again on the right. The design was originally adopted in 1824, with the added feature of the Peruvian coat of arms in its center. That design was simplified in 1950 to remove the coat of arms, and is still in use today. The symbolism of the Peruvian flag's colors is two-fold: while red stands for the blood of those who fought for Peru's independence and white for purity and peace, it is also said that the colors were inspired by a dream in which national hero San Martin saw flamingos. Peru's flag bears a cursory resemblance to the flag of Canada, but has a narrower white stripe and lacks the latter's maple leaf emblem.
A reverse of the flags of Monaco and Indonesia, the flag of Poland features a large white horizontal stripe in its lower half and an equally large red stripe stacked above taking up the flag's upper half. While the current flag design was adopted in 1919, white and red have been the national colors of Poland since 1831 and have been unofficially aligned with the country since the Middle Ages. Poland's flag arguably resembles the flag of Greenland, but notably lacks the distinctive reverse-colored circle. Poland's flag is also one of only a handful that use the 5:8 aspect ratio, making it slightly wider in relation to its height than the majority of flags, which utilize a 2:3 ratio.
Adopted just before the country officially established its independence from England in 1971, the flag of Qatar is atypical in three significant ways. First, the "red" on this flag is properly described as murrey, a dark purplish-red similar to maroon or mulberry. As such, some sources may consider Qatar's flag to be white and murray or white and maroon rather than white and red. Secondly, the aspect ratio of Qatar's flag is different from that of most flags, with shorter sides that give the Qatari flag a more "widescreen", banner-like appearance. Finally, the line where the white vertical stripe on the left meets the maroon field on the right is not a straight line, but a serrated row of triangles, similar to a stylized, sideways mountain range. The flag of Bahrain, first adopted in 1932, uses a similar design.
The red and white flag of Singapore was adopted first in December 1959, shortly after the country became a self-governing state within the British Empire, and again in August 1965, when Singapore finalized its independence from Malaysia. Singapore's flag features a bicolor design featuring two horizontal stripes half the height of the flag, white in the lower half and red in the upper half, with a white crescent moon and array of five stars in the upper left corner. The moon-and-stars emblem helps differentiate Singapore's flag from the flags of Monaco and Indonesia, whose designs are quite similar but lack the emblem.
According to Singapore's official flag rules, the color red represents "universal fellowship and equality", while white symbolizes "pervading and everlasting purity and virtue". The crescent moon stands for "a young nation on the ascendant" (and unofficially for Islam), and the five stars stand for the nation's five ideals: democracy, peace, progress, justice, and equality, and may be an unofficial nod to the country's Chinese heritage.
The only national flag in the world to use a 1:1 (square) aspect ratio, the flag of Switzerland features an equilateral (all arms the same length) white cross centered on a red field. The white cross has been used by Swiss soldiers since roughly 1300, before modern Switzerland existed as a sovereign country. The flag was first used as a national symbol in 1841, though the relative dimensions of the flag and the cross have been adjusted multiple times since then. Although no other national flag resembles the flag of Switzerland, the primary flag of the charity organization Red Cross and Red Crescent (formerly International Red Cross) is quite similar, the main differences being reversed colors (a red cross on a white field) and a more rectangular aspect ratio.
The nation of Tonga adopted its flag in November 1875 and added a clause in its constitution declaring that the flag could never be altered. Tonga's flag features a field of red with a white rectangle in the upper left corner, and a red equilateral (all arms the same length) cross inside the white rectangle. The flag is steeped in Christian symbolism, with the cross symbolizing Christianity, the red color representing the blood of Christ, and the white standing for purity. Tonga's flag also utilizes a 1:2 aspect ratio, making it notably more elongated than most flags, which typically utilize a 2:3 ratio.
The North African country of Tunisia adopted its national flag, which features a red crescent moon and single five-pointed star, both inside a white disc centered on a red field, in 1827. The Tunisian flag is rife with symbolism. Red represents the blood of Tunisian martyrs killed in the Crusades, white symbolizes peace, the disc represents the sun/radiance of the Tunisian people, and the crescent and stars represent Muslim unity and the Five Pillars of Islam.
Carried over from the Ottoman flag of 1844, the modern flag of Turkey was standardized in 1936. Turkey's flag features a large white crescent and a single white five-pointed star arranged to the left of center (toward the hoist/flagpole edge) on a red field. The crescent is occasionally said to be a reference to a Turkish legend in which Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire, dreamt of a moon rising from the chest of a sheikh whose daughter Osman I hoped to marry.
Austria, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, England, Georgia, Gibraltar, Greenland, China, Indonesia, Japan, Latvia, Malta, Monaco, Peru, Poland, and Qatar are all countries that have red and white flags.