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A flag is an abstract two-dimensional arrangement of colors, areas and characters, usually rectangular in shape. It is usually made of cloth, but other materials such as paper, plastic or metal are also used. Their painted image often serves the same purposes as the actual flag.

Flags are used for visual transmission of information, originally over a greater distance, such as from ship to ship. Often this is to mark the affiliation or representation of communities and entities. The science of flags and flagging is called vexillology (flag lore).

The word flag has a Norse origin, probably arising in England in the 17th century, from the Old Norse word flogra, meaning to flutter. Around 1600, in the course of the creation of national flags, it finally found its way in a modified form into Dutch and Low German or Nine Dutch usage and thus became vlag (Dutch: "ship's flag"). Later it became flag in German usage. Another variant of origin can be found in the old Saxon or Germanic word Flaken or Ffleogan, which means "blowing in the wind".

In the narrower (legal) sense, a flag is a piece of cloth that can be disposed of and replaced when worn. Flags are replaceable; they are manufactured in various sizes and in large numbers. A flag is often hoisted on a pole or flagpole with a flag line, making it easily replaceable. The word flag also serves as a generic term for flags, banners, standards and pennants.[