Definition of martlet in English:

martlet

noun

Heraldry
  • A bird like a swallow without feet, borne (typically with the wings closed) as a charge or a mark of cadency for a fourth son.

    • ‘The martlet signifies nobility acquired through bravery, prowess or intelligence. On English arms it was a mark of cadency signifying the fourth son, for whom there was little doubt that there would be no land left for him to inherit.’
    • ‘The fifth martlet was added because when the charges were placed on a shield, the base looked a bit empty.’
    • ‘What the martlet was originally is a matter for dispute. Some claim it was the martin, for in some mediaeval documents it is written as "martenette".’
    • ‘The martlet in French heraldry is called the merlette, represented by a swallow, depicted without legs, and later usually. without a beak.’
    • ‘Martlets do not have any strong meaning in heraldry, but some have commented that the bird, which is similar to the swift, connoted speed or swiftness.’

Origin

Late Middle English (denoting a swift): from Old French merlet, influenced by martinet (see martin).

Pronunciation

martlet

/ˈmärtlət/