Vexillology is the “scientific study of the history, symbolism[,] and usage of flags or, by extension, any interest in flags in general” (Smith 31) It is formally defined by the International Federation of Vexillological Associations (FIAV) constitution as “the creation and development of a body of knowledge about flags of all types, their forms and functions, and of scientific theories and principles based on that knowledge.”

The term was conceived in 1957 by the American scholar and vexillologist Whitney Smith and first appeared in print in 1959 (12). It was originally considered a sub-discipline of heraldry (Smith 12), and is still occasionally seen as such. A person who studies flags is a vexillologist; a person who designs flags is a vexillographer; and any person who simply likes, admires, or enjoys flags is a vexillophile.

Since 1965, an International Congress of Vexillology (ICV) has been organized every two years under the auspices of FIAV. The 2007 ICV was in Berlin, Germany; the 2009 ICV was in Yokohama, Japan; the 2011 ICV was in Alexandria, Virginia, USA, and the 2013 will be in Rotterdam, The Netherlands ( Internet activity of vexillologists is centered on the Flags of the World website and mailing list.