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A flag is a piece of fabric (most often rectangular or quadrilateral) with a distinctive design and colours. It is used as a symbol, a signalling device, or for decoration. The term flag is also used to refer to the graphic design employed, and flags have evolved into a general tool for rudimentary signalling and identification, especially in environments where communication is challenging (such as the maritime environment, where semaphore is used). The study of flags is known as "vexillology" from the Latin vexillum, meaning "flag" or "banner".
Flags as recognized today, made of a piece of cloth representing a particular entity, were invented in the Indian subcontinent or Chinese Zhou dynasty (1046-256 BCE). Chinese flags depicted colorful like their culture. Animals and royal flags were to be treated with a similar level of respect attributed to the ruler. Indian flags were often triangular and decorated with attachments such as yak's tail and the state umbrella. These usages spread to Southeast Asia as well, and were transmitted to Europe through the Muslim world where plainly colored flags were being used due to Islamic proscriptions.
A civil flag is a version of the national flag that is flown by civilians on non-government installations or craft. The use of civil flags was more common in the past, in order to denote buildings or ships that were not manned by the military. In some countries the civil flag is the same as the war flag or state flag, but without the coat of arms, such as in the case of Spain, and in others it's an alteration of the war flag.
Large versions of the war flag flown on the warships of countries' navies are known as battle ensigns. In addition besides flying the national standard or a military services' emblem flag at a military fort, base, station or post and at sea at the stern (rear) or main top mast of a warship, a Naval Jack flag and other Maritime flags, pennants and emblems are flown at the bow (front). In times of war waving a white flag is a banner of truce, talks/negotiations or surrender.
Since many flags have a simple design, there is bound to be cases of flags with similar designs. From 1948 to 1989, the flag of Romania had an insignia in the middle of the tricolour flag. In 1989 the insignia was removed, reverting Romania's flag back to an earlier version. This version matched the design which had been adopted by Chad in 1959. This has concerned the Chadian government, and in 2004 they requested that the United Nations should consider it an issue. In response, the Romanian President Ion Iliescu stated to the media, "The tricolour belongs to us. We will not give up the tricolour".
Various flags have been modelled on the flag of the United States. Liberia was founded by freed African-American and ex-Caribbean slaves as settlers from the United States and the Caribbean. When Liberia gained independence in 1847 the flag of the new state was modelled on that of the United States, although the symbolism of the elements were differently interpreted. The US flag has also served as the model for the flags of Uruguay, El Salvador (between 1865 and 1912), Brazil (for the first few days of the Republic) and Brittany.
Flags are often representative of an individual's affinity or allegiance to a country, team or business and can be presented in various ways. A popular trend that has surfaced revolves around the idea of the 'mobile' flag in which an individual displays their particular flag of choice on their vehicle. These items are commonly referred to as car flags and are usually manufactured from high strength polyester material and are attached to a vehicle via a polypropylene pole and clip window attachment.