Union Jack or Union Flag?

Many people debate what to call the flag of the United Kingdom.  I’ve only heard it called “Union Jack,” though I’m learning that not many people outside of the United Kingdom have heard it called the “Union Flag.”  Why the confusion?  The word jack has been used to refer to any flag, not just the flag of the UK.  Hence the debate.  Then there is debate about how it became known as the “Union Jack” throughout the world.  This might be due to the fact that the Royal Navy was known and respected all over the world during its heyday.  The flag was hung on a “Jack Staff,” which is a flag pole fastened to the bow of a ship, giving life to “Union Jack.”

There is another fact that I find interesting about this flag.  This flag became known as the national flag of the United Kingdom since so many people associate it with the UK .  There is no law stating that this flag is the official flag.  This does not mean that this flag, whether you call it the “Union Jack” or the “Union Flag,” is not prevalent all over.  I see it everywhere I go in London.  Here are some examples:

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast (lesbianswhowrite.com) with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (iheartlesfic.com), a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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26 Responses to Union Jack or Union Flag?

  1. T.F.Walsh says:

    Haven’t heard of Union Jack… just learnt something new:)

    • TBM says:

      Really? I haven’t heard of Union Flag. It is funny how people all over have different words or phrases for things. I’m still getting used to hearing people say cheers for thank you. At first I kept thinking everyone was saying it to get me to drink. In the US we say cheers when giving a toast or when we clink our glasses together before taking a sip of our drinks.

  2. Kristina says:

    Yes, British love their Union Jack! And I have’t heard it to be called Union Flag…. But whatever it’s being called, it’s still the same thing 😀

    • TBM says:

      I had no clue about the Union Flag. I’m glad I know it now. At first I was overwhelmed since the flag is everywhere, but then I started to think about it. America also has the flag all over, but I’m used to seeing it.

  3. Your posts are always so interesting. When I visited London I was also fascinated by the different expressions. In fact, I kept a diary of my trip in which I had a running list of strange (to me) English words and expressions. It was fun to share them with everyone back home.

    • TBM says:

      Thanks. I like to learn new things and moving here has given me a lot of opportunities to learn more about this world. I would love to hear some of the words you wrote down. Sometimes I feel like an idiot when someone says a word or phrase I don’t understand.

  4. I’ve always known it as the Union Jack, probably because my mother was born in England. Love your photos … Im in dire need of a good pair of Doc’s! 😉

  5. Palm Trees & Bare Feet says:

    I love these facts! And that is so weird that it is only the flag because people assume it is! I have never been to the United Kingdom, but it is true that I assume it’s their flag! Haha. Great post, TBM! 🙂

    • TBM says:

      I was surprised by this fact as well. I wonder how many countries haven’t designated an official flag and I never considered that it was necessary to designate it. But I guess in this case, it wasn’t necessary.

  6. frizztext says:

    great funny collection of Jacks ‘n Flags!

  7. I’ve only heard of Union Jack. Great images here. Love how it’s used so much on fun things. 🙂

  8. IsobelandCat says:

    Each country of the UK has its own flag. The Union flag represents the political union of three kingdoms. Wales isn’t a kingdom, but a principality since Edward I conguered it, so does not feature in the Union flag.
    Jumper is a word that has got me into trouble with Americans…

    • TBM says:

      In the US each state has its own flag. Defined territories really like to have a flag. I remember hearing that some want to change the flag to stamp out racism, but I don’t know all of the details.

      Do Americans get mad about the term? If I remember correctly you use the term for sweatshirts or hoodies. Can you use it for a sweater?

  9. IsobelandCat says:

    or rather, conquered.

  10. IsobelandCat says:

    A sweater is a jumper. It’s not a hoodie or sweatshirt. I understood in the States it is what I’d call a pinafore.
    So the stars and stripes is also a political flag whereas the individual states have flags to define their identity.
    How do you stamp out racism with a flag?
    And re your second question, yes, it is! 🙂

    • TBM says:

      I haven’t heard the word pinafore yet. Thanks! I was mistaken. Now I know. I love learning this stuff. It enhances my experience here.

      I have to admit that I wouldn’t recognize all of the state flags in the US. But when you visit the States you will notice that courthouses and schools will fly the Stars and Stripes and their state flag.

      That is a good question about how do you stamp out racism with a flag. I think that is one of the reasons why the move to change the flag never came to fruition.

  11. niasunset says:

    I have a little purse with this flag… 🙂 I loved your photographs, they are so beautiful. Actually I love flags… We have ours too in everywhere… But I am not looking in political way or racism,…etc. This is just a colour, a beauty, a symbol… But more than this, it is the meaning of freedom of a country. I am emotional one… Because the history behind all these flags make me so emotional… Thank you dear TBM, with my love, nia

    • TBM says:

      Thanks Nia. I can’t wait to visit your lovely country and take photos of all the flags. I think your views about your flag are great. It is important to appreciate what the flag represents to you and to remember the history. Have a wonderful day!

  12. The Hook says:

    Great topic to explore! Nicely done.

    • TBM says:

      Thanks Hook! It is one of the things that has stood out to me during my first couple of months in my new home.

      • Ellabee says:

        As an American expat on the south coast of England for 8 years there are still things I learn about our two cultures. My English husband is not as connected to the history behind the flag. As he is not a royalist he prefers the St. George flag to represent him. In certain British circles preferring the St George flag, the flag of England makes you a racist. He is not. Loyality is a funny thing.
        In my early UK curiosity I had heard that the union flag was only to be called the union jack when flown on a boat serving her Majesty the Queen. Although the only person I have found to confirm this is my war buff Father in law.
        Curious language differences…. Garter belts are called suspenders…. Tea for dinner or evening meal…. And fanny…. For a womans privates….. All 3 have taken adjustment. Enjoy England it is an amazing place!

  13. TBM says:

    Hi Ellabee. I’ll have to look into the St. George flag and how preferring this flag can be considered racist. I’m curious what circles believe this. There is so much to learn. I was warned not to say fanny before I moved here. I’m loving learning about the language differences. I’m glad you are enjoying your time here. I’m loving it! Thanks for commenting and sharing your experiences.

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