What do the stars represent

Stars, stars again and again

Zeljko Heimer

The star is a symbol that cannot be overlooked in flag science. You can find it on 80 national flags; which makes up about 40% of all. This makes it the most frequently used symbol.

One can say that the star belongs to the flag industry, because in the heraldry, the ancestor of the flag industry, the star appears very rarely. When it appears in a coat of arms, it is usually six-pointed, while five-pointed stars are preferred on flags. The popularity of stars on flags can be traced back to the stars and stripes of the United States from 1777, even if there were older flags with stars, e.g. in Hamburg and Turkey. New stars were continually added to the American stars and stripes, so that the current national flag of the United States has "only" existed since 1960. Some old national flags with stars have remained unchanged to this day: Chile since 1817, Tunis since around 1835, Liberia since 1847, Cuba and New Zealand since 1902, Panama since 1904, Australia since 1909 and Morocco since 1915.

Number of pips

On 65 of the 80 flags with stars, these are five-pointed. There are 5 flags with six-pointed stars, 3 with seven-pointed stars. Six flags have stars with more than six points. There is only one flag with a four-pointed star. There is no flag with a three-pointed star. still those with 9, 10, 11, 13 and more points (with the exception of 24). Stars with many points come very close to the symbolic representation of the sun, and one can only infer from the description of the flag design which symbol it should be. The star on the flag of the Marshal Islands has 24 points, but they are no longer identical. The star with the most similar points (fourteen) is the one on the flag of. Malaysia.

Symbolism of the star

What is the symbolic meaning of a star? No general answer can be given to this. Stars are often used as symbols for very different things on different flags. While stars in connection with the crescent moon are symbols for Islam (but not exclusively, see Croatia), the star on the flag of the Marshal Islands stands for Christianity. The star has other meanings in the African states, where it stands for the unity of a state, or, as in Somalia, for diversity (five regions live in Somalis).

Multiple stars

National flags that have several stars represent a number that is important for the state. As a rule, it is the number of administrative or geographical sub-areas, such as states, regions, districts or islands. Honduras is the only country on whose flag the stars represent foreign countries.

Exceptions to this meaning of number can be found with the flag of Burundi, where the number three corresponds to the number of words in the national motto, and with the Chinese flag, on which the four small stars symbolize the four classes of the people.

The stars in the flags of Croatia and Slovenia are holdovers from the coats of arms of these countries. Why Syria and Iraq have two stars is unclear.

The largest number of stars are of course on the US flag - 50, followed by the 22 Brazilian stars of various sizes and the 15 stars of the Cook Islands. With the exception of 11 and 13, all smaller numbers of stars appear on today's national flags. The most common number of stars on a flag is 5 (on 11 flags), followed by 3 (on 7 flags), 2 (on 5 flags), 4 (on 3 flags) and 10 and 6 stars respectively on 2 flags.


When multiple stars are shown on a flag, there are many possible arrangements. They can be grouped according to natural or geometric criteria.

A natural arrangement is the rendering of constellations. The typical example of this is the Southern Cross (Crux Australis). This is represented very differently in the flags of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Niue and the Christmas Islands. Natural starry sky is also shown on the Brazilian flag. The display of many stars in different sizes is unique. Other peculiar arrangements can be found on the flags of Australia and the Christmas Islands, where stars with different numbers of points and of different sizes are combined.

Another type of natural arrangement is the reproduction of geographical situations, as it was on the flag of Tuvalu, which was valid until recently, where the position of the islands belonging to the state was symbolized by stars.

Geometric arrangements of stars can be linear (Comoros, USA, Uzbekistan), circular (Micronesia, Myanmar, Cook Islands), semicircular (Equatorial Guinea, China, Macao, Tajikistan, Venezuela), elliptical (Netherlands Antilles), or according to other geometric rules take place (Grenada, Niue).

Five stars are arranged either in a circle / ellipse (Singapore, Netherlands Antilles) or in the form of the letter X (Honduras, Solomon Islands, roughly Turkmenistan). Three stars can be found in a linear arrangement (Iraq, Tokelau) or in a circle or triangle (Burundi, Slovenia, Philippines, Cayman Islands).

Color of the stars

The color of the stars cannot be given any outstanding symbolic significance. The classic identification of communism with the five-pointed red star can be questioned with today's flags. Three of the eight red stars on national flags are connected to a crescent moon and have nothing to do with communism. The red star on the flag of Djibouti stands for the unity of the country, which on the New Zealand flag belongs to the Southern Cross, which on the Panamanian flag is "random" red. Only the flags of Korea and Zimbabwe are linked to socialism. On the other hand, a few different colored stars indicate the heirs of Marxist teaching: yellow stars in Angola, Mozambique and Vietnam and possibly the green and black stars in the flags of Senegal, Ghana and Guinea-Bissau. Yellow stars from several other African countries could also be of socialist origin. White stars, on the other hand, appear almost without exception on flags of non-communist countries.

White and yellow stars are the most common. The other colors are significantly less common, such as red on nine flags, green on six, blue and black on three each. Panama has the only flag on which stars appear in different colors.


Stars with 7 or more points always have one pointing upwards. Six-pointed stars either point with a point upwards (Burundi, Slovenia) or, if they are arranged in a circle or semicircle, outwards, i.e. the stars rotate around the center. (Equatorial Guinea, Croatia). On today's flags, there are no six-pointed stars with their points pointing horizontally to the right or left. The star that accompanies a crescent moon can point towards it (Turkey), be turned away from it (Pakistan, Western Sahara) or point upwards (Mauritania, Turkmenistan). An interesting case is the flag of St. Kitts and Navis, where the stars are perpendicular to the diagonal stripe. Four-pointed stars are of course oriented vertically.

Outlined stars

Hollow stars, i.e. those in which only outlines are shown, are quite rare. - Israel, Morocco and Ethiopia. Interestingly, these are all of Jewish origin. This is clear with the Star of David, but the pentagrams of Morocco and Ethiopia are also symbols that can be traced back to King Solomon. As for outlined stars, i.e. stars with a different type of edge, these have a more decorative character in order to better emphasize them visually in contrasting colors.


The star is an irreplaceable symbol in flag history. It can represent anything from unity to diversity in various forms and combinations. No political ideology has a monopoly on the star as a symbol. It is also not associated with a specific religion, although it can stand for everyone. As a very simple geometric figure, it is easy to make in any material. No other symbol is so widespread and universal. In addition to the rectangle, the star is the typical element of today's national flags.


Overview of the national flags with stars,

ordered by the number of points. (their symbolic meaning in brackets):

24-pointed star white: Marshall Islands (unequal points, 24 districts, Christianity)

14-pointed star yellow with crescent moon: Malaysia (Provinces, Islam)

12-pointed star white: Nauru (tribes), Nepal (sun)

8-pointed star white with crescent moon: Azerbaijan (peoples)

yellow: Moldova (?)

7-pointed star white: Jordan (the first 7 suras of the Koran)

white, 4 stars: Australia (Crux Australis, 7 states)

Christmas Islands (Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta of Crux Australis)

6-pointed star red, bordered in green, 3 stars Burundi (words in the motto, ethnic groups)

blue: Israel (Magen David)

yellow, 2 stars: Croatia (1 in the coat of arms, 1 with crescent moon, morning star)

yellow, 3 stars: Slovenia (unknown, from the Celje coat of arms)

yellow, 6 stars: Equatorial Guinea (mainland + 5 islands)

..5-pointed star: red: Djibouti (unity), North Korea and Zimbabwe (socialism)

red, with crescent moon: Algeria, Tunis and Western Sahara (Islam)

yellow: Angola, Mozambique and Vietnam (socialism)

yellow: Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Suriname, (unit)

yellow: Central African Republic (independence, bright future)

yellow: Ethiopia and Paraguay (?)

yellow, with crescent moon: Mauritania (Islam)

white: Australia and Christmas Islands (Epsilon Crux Australis)

white: Chile, Cuba, Northern Marianne Islands, Puerto Rico (?)

white: Liberia (freedom, unity), Togo (purity)

white: Somalia (five areas where Somalis live)

white, with crescent moon: Pakistan and Turkey (Islam)

green: Senegal (?)

green, pentagram: Morocco (ruling dynasty)

black: Ghana and Guinea-Bissau (African freedom)

2 stars white: St. Kitts and Nevis (islands)

green: Syria (?)

black: Sao Tome and Principe (islands)

red and blue: Panama (?)

3 stars yellow: Philippines (geographical areas)

white: French South Seas and Antarctic Territories, Tokelau (?)

green: Cayman Islands (islands), Iraq (?)

4 stars red, outlined in white: New Zealand (Crux Australis)

white: Micronesia (archipelago)

white, with crescent moon: Comoros (islands, Islam)

5 stars yellow: China (social classes), Macao (China), Niue (Crux Australis)

white: Netherlands Antilles (islands)

white: Papua New Guinea and Samoa (Crux Australis)

white: Solomon Islands (geographical areas)

white, with crescent moon: Singapore (prosperity), Turkmenistan (Islam)

blue: Honduras (former states of Central America)

7 stars yellow: Grenada (districts), Tajikistan (?)

white: Venezuela (provinces)

8 stars yellow: Tuvalu (islands)

9 stars yellow: Bolivia (provinces)

10 stars yellow: Cape Verde (islands)

green, with a yellow border: Dominica (provinces?)

12 stars white, with crescent moon: Uzbekistan (zodiac sign)

14 white stars: Myanmar (States)

15 stars white: Cook Islands (islands)

22 white stars: Brazil (states)

50 stars white: U.S.A. (states)

4 - pointed star red, with white border: Aruba (wind directions)



1. W. Smith "Flags and arms across the World", 1980)

2. N. Smith "Flags of the World", New York, 1995.

3. "The Flagchart", Shipmate Vlag Produktie, 1996.

4. FOTW website at http://Flaggen.cesi.it/Flaggen