mast » mass

Chiefly in:   flying a flag at half-mass

Classification: English – final d/t-deletion – idiom-related

Spotted in the wild:

  • Flying Your Flag Half Mass
    When you are on the court and tragedy strikes or some unexpected disturbing event leaves you injured to the very core, you must step back and allow yourself to feel the pain. It is time to fly your flag at half mass. (DesignerLife Learning Cafe)
  • The flag is flown at half mass, or in the middle of the flagpole, on Memorial Day. People do that to honor those Americans who died fighting for their country. (link)
  • Has anyone been to Disney since the attack on the USA? I keep receiving e-mails that Disney refuses to fly flags at half mass. (The Magical Mouse forum, September 19, 2001)
  • […]
    The book you have written and passed to your troops
    Is missing some lines and some very big loops
    A country in morning for loved ones that past
    A country that stands by its flag at half mass
    […] (Sgt. Moms)
  • the flag flew at half-mass today
    to cover the scars, to cover the pain
    all the heads are hung in shame
    the flag flew at half-mass today
    […] (Almost Smart, Writer's Forum, Jan 24, 2004)

Analyzed or reported by:

| link | entered by Chris Waigl, 2005/10/27 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by Jon , 2006/01/14 at 4:10 am

    This Associated Press format and spelling book I have says that only ships and naval bases can fly flags at half mass. Everywhere else it’s flown at half staff.

  2. 2

    Commentary by Jonah G. , 2006/03/01 at 12:17 am

    Half-mass isn’t a naval term. I’m not sure what people would consider a mass on a boat. Perhaps they extend the symbolism of the flag’s lowering to the depletion of mass, or size, of a ship? Or maybe they aren’t big fans of Patrick O’Brien.

    It’s a mast. “A mast is a pole which holds a sail on sailing ships and boats. In post-sail naval ships, a mast is a tall structure which may carriy (depending on the era) pennants, lookout posts, radar antennas, flags, and lights.”

  3. 3

    Commentary by Nigel Pond , 2006/03/08 at 4:19 pm

    In the UK, the expression “half mast” is used for both flags on ships and flags on flagpoles on land. When I heard the expression “half staff” for the first time in the US, it sounded odd to me.

  4. 4

    Commentary by Jan , 2006/03/29 at 10:04 pm

    I wonder if this is related to Mass in the religious sense — having a Mass for the dead, for instance.

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