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A Glossary of Medals Terms

This alphabetical Glossary is not an exhaustive list of all medals terms. It is intended only to explain the main terms used throughout this website.

Award
The act of giving or receiving an Order, medal or decoration. Also used to describe some medals e.g. The New Zealand Armed Forces Award.
Badge
Some Orders have badges associated with them which are worn individually or as part of the insignia of the Order
Bar
A second or subsequent award of a medal is often denoted by a metal bar attached to the medal suspender or ribbon (see also Clasp and Rosette).
Bravery Medals
Medals awarded to military personnel and civilians who perform particular acts of bravery usually associated with saving life. e.g. The New Zealand Bravery Medal.
Campaign Medals
Medals awarded for service in specific military campaigns or theatres of war or operations (see also War Medals).
Chivalry
A term used in association with ancient Orders (of Chivalry) such as Knighthoods, which usually carry with them the title 'Sir' or 'Dame'.
Citation
Individual Citations are a narrative naming the recipient of a medal and outlining the reasons for the award being made. Unit Citations are awarded to recognise meritorious service by an entire unit or units in a specific operation.
Clasp
A second or subsequent award of a medal is often denoted by a metal clasp attached to the medal ribbon (see also Bar and Rosette). Some medals are issued with a clasp related to the first award of that medal, e.g. The New Zealand General Service Medal 1992 and The General Service Medal 1962.
Decoration
A descriptive term used for particular medals such as the (Territorial Army) Efficiency Decoration (ED). Also used to describe the award of medals to an individual e.g. 'he was highly decorated during the war'.
Dynastic Honours
Honours awarded directly by the Sovereign without reference to the Head of the Government or Ministers of the intended recipient's country. An example is the Royal Victorian Order.
Effigy
The head of the reigning Sovereign used on the obverse of medals. Several different effigies may be used for the same Sovereign, particularly where the Sovereign's reign is a long one.
Eligibility for Medals
The criteria for the award of a medal usually measured in length of service or service in a specific area of operations.
Engraving of Medals
Medals are often engraved with the initials and surname of the recipient, the recipient's service number, rank (at the date the award was qualified for), and branch of service (e.g. RNZN, RNZAF, NZEF) or corps (e.g. RNZA, RNZE, RNZIR or RNZMC), and sometimes with the date of the award (see also Naming of Medals). Engraving is either on the medal rim or on the reverse of the medal.
Emblems
Small metal insignia awarded for specific acts of gallantry or bravery worn on the ribbon of the most appropriate medal or directly on the jacket breast if no medals are held. e.g. Mention in Despatches (MID) is in the form of a small bronze oak leaf.
Foreign Awards
Any order, decoration or medal awarded by a foreign country or by an international organisation, such as the United Nations or NATO. Foreign awards may only be worn with the approval of the Sovereign. (see also Restricted Wear and Unrestricted Wear).
Gallantry Medals
Medals awarded to military personnel who endanger their lives while on military operations. An example is The New Zealand Gallantry Star.
Honours
The conferring of membership of a specific State Order such as the New Zealand Order of Merit or the Queen's Service Order.
Insignia
The regalia, medal, badges and ribbon associated with membership of a particular Order.
Long Service and Good Conduct Medals
Awarded to military personnel, and personnel of other organisations such as the Police, Prison and Fire Services, for a specified period of long service and good conduct.
Medal
An embossed metal disc, cross or star struck to commemorate a particular event or service and awarded to individuals who become eligible for it or as a decoration or honour for distinguished military or civilian service.
Medallion
A large sized medal usually round or oval struck for a particular purpose. Medallions do not usually have suspender rings or ribbons and they are often issued to next of kin to commemorate a relative killed in action.
Miniature Medals
A reduced size version of an Order, award, decoration or medal designed to make the wearing of medals with evening dress more practical and comfortable.
Mounting of Medals
The process of arranging a group of medals (in the correct order) on a medal bar for attachment to a recipient's uniform.
Naming of Medals
Medals are often engraved with the initials and surname of the recipient, the recipient's service number, rank (at the date the award was qualified for), and branch of service (e.g. RNZN, RNZAF, NZEF) or corps (e.g. RNZA, RNZE, RNZIR or RNZMC), and sometimes with the date of the award (see also Engraving of Medals).
Numerals
Second or subsequent periods of service in a theatre of operations where a medal has already been awarded are often denoted by a metal numeral sewn onto the ribbon of the medal concerned. An example is the United Nations Medal.
Obverse
The front side of a medal, award or decoration. Where the Sovereign's Head (see Effigy) is used it is always placed on the obverse of the medal.
Order of Wear
The order in which a group of medals should be mounted on a medal bar with the highest precedence medals on the left and the lowest on the right (see also Precedence)
Post Nominal Letters
Letters denoting particular honours, awards or decorations which may be appended after the recipient's name. For example, a recipient of the New Zealand Gallantry Decoration is entitled to use the letters N.Z.G.D. after his or her name.
Precedence
The order in which a group of medals should be mounted on a medal bar with the highest precedence medals on the left and the lowest on the right (see also Order of Wear)
Qualifying Service
A specified length of service required for the award of campaign or long service and good conduct medals.
Regulations
The instructions outlining the eligibility criteria and administration instructions for the award of individual medals.
Restricted Wear
The level of approval granted by the Sovereign which allows for an award to be worn only on specified occasions. Most of the awards which are approved for restricted wear only are foreign awards. Where restricted permission has been given the insignia may be worn on the following occasions:
  • (i) in the presence of any member of the Royal Family or Head of State of the country concerned;
  • (ii) at the residence of any ambassador, minister, or consular officer of that country in New Zealand or abroad, but not if meeting him or her elsewhere;
  • (iii) when attached to or officially meeting any officer of the Armed Forces or official deputation of that country;
  • (iv) at any official or semi-official ceremony held exclusively in connection with that country, and
  • (v) on all occasions whilst in that country.  (see also Unrestricted Wear)
Reverse
The back of a medal (as opposed to the front). The reverse is usually embossed with images or text, but is sometimes left blank. The recipient's name or the date of award is sometimes engraved on the reverse. (see also Obverse)
Ribbons
Medals are usually attached by a suspender bar or ring to a single or multicoloured ribbon. When medals are not being worn, a narrow bar displaying the ribbon of each medal is worn on uniforms instead. Medals can be identified by the unique colours used in each medal ribbon.
Rosette
A second or subsequent award of a medal is sometimes denoted by a metal rosette sewn to the medal ribbon. (see also Bar and Clasp).
Royal Warrant
A document signed and dated by the Sovereign which initiates the issue of a medal. The Royal Warrant describes the purpose of the medal and the eligibility criteria for its award.  For some medals, separate Regulations are also issued which provide more detail concerning the eligibility criteria and administration instructions for the award.
Unit Citation
See Citation.
Unrestricted Wear
The level of approval granted by the Sovereign which allows for an award to be worn on all occasions at which awards are worn. Nearly all awards approved for wear by New Zealand military personnel and New Zealand veterans are approved for unrestricted wear. (see also Restricted Wear)
War Medals
Medals issued to recognise service during wars, including medals issued to recognise service in specific campaigns of a war (see also Campaign Medals).
Quick Links
The Wearing of Medals in New Zealand – a guide to the correct order of wear

 This page was last reviewed 29 September, 2011 and is current.

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