Most every nation in the world has an official flag. Flags play an important role in a country's identity. They unite the citizenry, inspire patriotism, and offer people a tangible symbol of their country to wear and display proudly. Flags are particularly useful in international settings such as in the Olympics, FIFA, or the United Nations, in which the citizens of many countries come together for the specific purpose of representing their country. Most countries also have national animals, anthems, flowers, and so on. But flags are the symbols that resonate most strongly.
Each country's flag is unique to that country. Theoretically, one can identify a person's homeland at a glance by noting which flag they display. However, not all flags as as unique and distinguishable as one might hope. Many countries have similar color schemes and patterns on their flags. For instance, the flag of the Netherlands features three broad horizontal stripes of (in order) red, white, then blue, while the flag of Luxembourg features three broad horizontal stripes of red, white, then light blue and the Russian flag features three broad horizontal stripes of white, blue, then red. These similarities can make it tricky to tell certain flags apart from one another.
Countries and territories with red, white, and blue flags
Red and white are the colors most often used in flag designs, with blue and gold close behind. Moreover, the combination of red, white, and blue is one of the most popular choices of all, used in the flags of more than 50 countries and territories. Most flags use stripes (usually horizontal) or blocks of color into their designs, and many also utilize stars or emblems (which may include additional colors) in some way. A simple list of countries whose flags are red, white, and blue appears below, and a more detailed table can be seen further down the page.
Countries with red, white, and blue flags
Territories with red, white, and blue flags
|American Samoa (U.S.)||Cayman Islands (U.K.)||Saint Helena (U.K.)|
|Anguilla (U.K.)||Falkland Islands (U.K.)||Sint Maarten (Netherlands)|
|Ascension Island (U.K.)||Faroe Islands (Denmark)||South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (U.K.)|
|Bermuda (U.K.)||French Southern and Antarctic Lands (France)||Tristan de Cunha (U.K.)|
|British Antarctic Territory (U.K.)||Montserrat (U.K.)||Turks and Caicos Islands (U.K.)|
|British Indian Ocean Territory (U.K.)||Puerto Rico (U.S.)||Wallis and Futuna (France)|
|British Virgin Islands (U.S.)|
The symbolic language of flag designs
Flag designs are rarely random. Rather, the colors, shapes, and other design elements on a given flag usually have symbolic significance. For example, the flag of the United States features thirteen stripes—one for each of the thirteen original colonies—and fifty stars—one for each current state. While there is no official explanation for the U.S. flag's red, white, and blue color palette, the colors have widely accepted unofficial symbolic meanings. In the late 1700s, red was said to symbolize hardiness and valor, white was purity and innocence, and blue was perseverance and justice. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan modified this interpretation, saying red stood for courage and sacrifice, white for pure intentions and high ideals, and blue for vigilance and justice.
Why do many country flags resemble one another?
As previously mentioned, some countries and territories have similar flags to others. While this can sometimes be attributed to chance, it is often deliberate, designed to represent a special relationship between the two nations.
For example, the U.K. flag features the "Union Jack" design, with its distinctive red and white stripes on a blue background, across its entire area. The Australian flag displays the Union Jack in the upper hoist corner, then fills the rest of the flag with a blue field containing one large seven-pointed star (six points for Australia's states and one for the territories), and five smaller stars in the shape of the Southern Cross, a constellation only viewable in the Southern Hemisphere. The Australian flag’s Union Jack is a reference to Australia’s history as a British colony (six colonies, actually); a statement of devotion to democracy, the rule of law, freedom of speech, and citizens' rights; and a sign of loyalty to the British Empire. The New Zealand flag has a similar design to Australia’s, as do most British territories such as the Cayman Islands and Montserrat.
The Liberian flag is very similar to the United States flag. The U.S. flag has 13 red and white stripes and a blue field in the upper hoist corner with 50 white stars representing the 50 U.S. states. The Liberian flag has 11 red and white stripes and one white star in a blue field in the upper hoist corner. This represents Liberia’s founding by former U.S. slaves. The 11 stripes symbolize the signatories of the Liberian Declaration of Independence, and their colors represent courage and moral excellence. The white star represents the first independent republic in Africa.