The Union Jack

Kirimaru

Senior Member
Vietnamese
Hi, everyone.

I'm wondering why the national flag of the United Kingdom was named "The Union Jack". Jack is a common personal name in Britain, right? But, why it is Jack that is used here, not any other common name ?

Could you, natives of the UK, please let me know or tell me any link about this issue ?



I'm afraid what I have asked is a little bit off-topic.
I'm terribly sorry, but I do hope I can get an answer here.

Many thanks
 
  • carcoolka

    Member
    Slovak
    The best would be to search through google and type "Union Jack".

    As far as I know, there are two possibilities:

    1)
    The Union Flag is commonly known as the Union Jack, although the exact origin of the name is unclear. One explanation is that it gets its name from the "jack staff" of naval vessels from which the original Union Flag was flown.

    2)
    Historian David Starkey said in that Channel 4 tv programme that the Union Flag is called 'Jack' because it is named after James l of Great Britain (Jacobus , Latin for James), who introduced the flag following his accession to the throne.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    A "jack" is a type of naval flag. Jacks are not always identical with the national flag (the jack on United States vessels, for example, is either just the blue field with fifty stars, or, on US Navy vessels, the "Don't Tread of Me" jack with thirteen stripes and a rattlesnake, but no stars), but in the case of Great Britain, the jack and the national flag are identical.

    I consider misguided and far-fetched any explanation of the origin of the term "Union Jack" (which would have been distinct from the jack and flag of England, which English vessels would have used before its creation) that does not realize that "jack" is a common vexillological term.
     
    Last edited:

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    We are gradually becoming more accustomed to calling our Union Flag just that, and recognizing that Union Jack is reserved for vessels at sea.
    This learned vexillological* account suggests that that is a relatively recent idea...


    *Lovely word, GWB, thank you!:)
     
    Last edited:
    Strictly speaking, the constituent nations of the United Kingdom have their own flags. In the 17th century, after the ascension of a Scottish king onto the English throne, a practice arose of combining the English and Scottish flags (St George's Cross and St Andrew's Cross) as a jack on naval vessels. It was formalised after the Act of Union in 1707, but no flag for the United Kingdom was designated as such.

    British ships flew the Union Jack as they travelled the world. A captain landing on new land would plant his ship's jack as a symbol of Britain's claim. The jack was taken up by the marines who were tasked to control the territory; so it became a military symbol too.

    When Ireland joined the union in 1806, St Patrick's Cross was added. As national awareness grew, the military men returning home would fly the Union Jack as a sign of loyalty. It gradually became the national flag.

    But it remains as it began - the Union Jack. One could argue that, on land, it is de facto a flag and not a jack, but that doesn't change its name. The "flag of the union" is called the Union Jack.

    I know the Boy Scouts and several reference books would disagree with me.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    When Ireland joined the union in 1806, St Patrick's Cross was added. As national awareness grew, the military men returning home would fly the Union Jack as a sign of loyalty. It gradually became the national flag.
    The Act of Union was signed in August 1800, to take effect on 1 Jan 1801.
     
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