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Fun with Flags

Tuesday, August 2, 2016, 18:13 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Olympic_ringsWith the Olympics coming up, I got thinking about all the flags we’ll see in the opening ceremony, among spectators cheering on their teams, and at medal ceremonies. Did you know that the colors of the Olympic rings—blue, yellow, black, green, and red—were chosen because every national flag on the planet contains at least one of those colors. (That factoid prompted the Den Son to state that he’d love to start his own country and give it a solid purple flag. But I digress.)

It has always fascinated me how many flags resemble others in some way. There are very few—the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the former Soviet Union come to mind—that are (or were) almost universally recognized. But what about the tri-color flags? There are tons of those, some vertical stripes, some horizontal stripes, that can be confusing to those who aren’t already familiar with them.

How similar are some national flags? Let’s take a look.

Liberia, Malaysia, and the U.S.A.

Liberia  Malaysia  UnitedStates

Liberia, being a nation founded for the resettlement of freed American and Caribbean slaves, deliberately adopted a flag similar to that of the United States, but with very different symbolism. The Malaysian flag is unrelated to both.

Australia and New Zealand

Australia  NewZealand

The principle differences (though there are others) are that the Australian flag has what’s called the Commonwealth star under the union flag and an extra, smaller star in the Southern Cross.

Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Argentina

Honduras  Nicaragua  El Salvador


The three Central American countries’ flags are based on the the flag of the former Federal Republic of Central America, which was itself inspired by the Argentine flag.

France, Ireland, and Italy

France  Ireland  Italy

Tricolors are abundant across the globe, as with these three European flags that all have white in the middle.

Ireland and Ivory Coast

Ireland  IvoryCoast

I’m showing the Irish flag again to compare it to the flag of the Ivory Coast, which is merely a differently proportioned mirror image of the other.

Guinea and Mali

Guinea  Mali

Two more vertical tricolors that also mirror each other vertically.

Indonesia, Monaco, and Poland

Indonesia Monaco Poland

Yes, those really are three different flags. The only differences are the proportion and orientation.

Luxembourg and the Netherlands

Luxembourg  Netherlands

And just to mix things up, here are similar flags that differ only in their shades of blue.

Costa Rica and Thailand

CostaRica Thailand

Some flags are virtually identical, but with colors reversed. The Costa Rican flag predates the Thai flag by almost 11 years, so somebody in Thai government was a copycat.

Cuba and Puerto Rico

Cuba  PuertoRico

Something I once learned: Don’t ever confuse these two flags when talking to a Puerto Rican.

Iceland and Norway

Iceland  Norway

Iceland was governed by Norway for many centuries, so it isn’t a surprise that its flag was based on Norway’s.

Denmark, Finland, and Sweden

Denmark  Finland  Sweden

Like Iceland and Norway, these Scandinavian countries do love their Nordic cross. I can easily identify the Danish and Swedish flags, but for some reason the Finnish flag always stumps me.

Bahrain and Qatar

Bahrain  Qatar

Prior to 2002, when Bahrain reduced the number of points on its flag, it looked even more like the Qatari flag.

Russia, Slovakia, and Slovenia

Russia  Slovakia  Slovenia

Then there are countries whose flags look look like someone else’s, with something new dropped onto the middle, as appears to be the case with Slovakia and Slovenia. For the record, I always get those two confused just because of their names; the flags don’t help.

Mali and Senegal

Mali  Senegal

I’m pointing out Mali again to show it next to Senegal. These countries were both part of the short-lived Mali Federation, whose flag was a version of French Sudan’s, but using the colors of the Pan-Africanist movement.

Romania and Moldova

Romania  Moldova

These two nations share cultural, historical, and geo-political ties, so it isn’t surprising that the Moldovan flag is based on that of Romania.

Italy and Mexico

Italy  Mexico

There are no similar ties, however, between Italy and Mexico.

The Netherlands and Paraguay

Netherlands  Paraguay

Nor are there between the Netherlands and Paraguay. In fact, the latter’s flag was based on the colors of the French flag.

I could go on and on, but I got tired of downloading flag images. Can you find similarities in other national flags?

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