The Union Jack a flag that unites. Posted by on Apr 14, 2015 in Culture

Image British flag (Union Jack) in Bangor by Iker Merodio on Flickr.

Image British flag (Union Jack) in Bangor by Iker Merodio on Flickr.

The picture above is a picture of the national flag of the United Kingdom, or as it is also known, the “Union Jack.” You may know this flag because of its connection to England, but perhaps you have seen it in Australia, New Zealand or the Caribbean, too.  Today we are going to take a look at the interesting history of the Union Jack and where you may see it flying across the English-speaking world.

The Union Jack made its first appearance in the 1600s and was a symbol of accord* between Scotland and England when they became united under one ruler. Parts of the existing English flag (a red cross on a white background) and the existing Scottish flag (a white X with a blue background) were brought together to create the earliest version of the Union Jack. It was at this time the term “Great Britain” first started to be used, as well. The term Great Britain is now often used to refer to the collective countries of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. The term “United Kingdom” is also used in the same way.

When Ireland joined the United Kingdom in the 1800’s a change was made to the Union Jack to represent this addition. Red lines in the form of an X were added to the flag to represent Ireland. Wales is the only nation within the United Kingdom that is not distinctly represented in the Union Jack. Since the 1800’s no further changes have been made to the flag that is an iconic symbol of Great Britain worldwide.

The Union Jack is found on many more flags, other than just Great Britain though. It appears in the upper-left hand corner of the flags of several other nations and territories all of which were former British colonies or possessions. Can you think of any other national flags that have the symbol of the Union Jack in them?

Here are two examples. Do you know which countries these flags belong to?

Image Red Duster by Andrew on Flickr.

Image Red Duster by Andrew on Flickr.

Image by caccamo on Flickr.

Image by caccamo on Flickr.

The first of these flags belongs to Bermuda and the second is that of Australia.

There are a number of other nations that use the Union Jack in their flag, as well. These include:
Cayman Islands
New Zealand

There are also a number of states and territories that include the Union Jack in their flag, including:
Hawaii, USA
Manitoba, Canada
Ontario Canada
British Columbia, Canada

Needless to say the Union Jack has an important presence in the English-speaking world. Next time you see the Union Jack, wherever you are in the world, I hope you feel like you have a greater understanding of what is and how it came to be. If you have any questions or comments about this post please let me know by using the comment box below.

* accord = an agreement or treaty

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About the Author: Gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.