I read a sentence in a chapter in my book which was:

The proclamation that was issued under the name of Bahadur Shah appealed to the people to join the fight under the standards of both Muhammad and Mahavir.

Could the noun "standard" mean "flag or banner of a military organization" figuratively in this context? But then I thought "under the standards of" would have been an established idiom but I could not find any mention of it. So I want to ask whether my surmise is correct. For those who don't know, Mahavira and Muhanmad are deities in Hindu mythology.

2 Answers 2


Yes, in this case "standard" is actually the older meaning of the word, to refer to a particular banner or flag used as a symbol for some authority, particularly in a military force.

You are also correct that the use is likely metaphorical, to mean "supporting some particular cause". However, it is reasonable to say that clerics of some god (and their followers) carry actual standards into battle.

Side note: The more common modern meaning, "a weight, measure, or instrument by which the accuracy of others is determined" is thought to be derived from the word for the physical standard, as the ultimate authority on weights and measures was the king.

The standard weights and measures were set by royal ordinance and were known as the king's standard, so perhaps metaphoric, the royal standard coming to stand for royal authority in matters like setting weights and measures. Hence the meaning "authoritative or recognized exemplar of quality or correctness" (late 15c.).


I think you are right. The entry in the Oxford Dictionaries for this meaning is


4 A military or ceremonial flag carried on a pole or hoisted on a rope.

Among the examples are some figurative uses, although they are sport-related:

In the absence of the Border clubs, it was left to two Edinburgh clubs to carry the standard for Scottish club rugby.

It was a bad day for Hawick and with Melrose losing too only Berwick are left carrying the Border standard.

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