"Vexilloid" is a term used tenuously to describe vexillary (flag-like) objects used by countries, organizations, or individuals as a form of representation other than flags. Coined by Whitney Smith in 1958, he defined a vexilloid as:
An object which functions as a flag but differs from it in some respect, usually appearance. Vexilloids are characteristic of traditional societies and often consist of a staff with an emblem, such as a carved animal, at the top.
The strictest definition specified in the ultimate sentence describes a vexillum. In a broader sense (that is, taking only Smith's first sentence into account), "vexilloid" can be used of any banner (vexillary object) which is not a flag. Thus it includes vexilla, banderoles, pennons, streamers, standards, and gonfalons.
The first most primitive proto-vexilloids in pre-historic times, and the precursors of all later vexilloids and, after that, flags, may have been simply pieces of cloth dipped in the blood of a defeated enemy.
The use of flags replaced the use of vexilloids for general purposes during late medieval times between about 1100 CE to about 1400 CE, however vexilloids still remain in use for specialized purposes such as for some military units or to symbolize various organizations such as fraternal organization in street parades.
The vexilloid of the Mongol Empire, the only vexilloid of an empire to be three-dimensional rather than mostly a flat surface, the "Yöson Khölt tsagaan tug" (Mongolian: Есөн хөлт цагаан туг) or the "Nine Base White Banners", was composed of nine flag poles decorated with nine off-white horse tail hairs hanging from a round surface with a flame or trident-like shape on the top at the center. The Nine White Banners was a peacetime emblem used by the Khan in front of his yurt. The war flag of the Mongol Empire was the same as the banner at right, except the horse tails were off-black instead of off-white as they were cut from black instead of white horses.
Vexilloids of modern empires
In Nazi Germany, also referred to as the Third Reich, the SS used vexilloids which they marched with in street parades and at the Nuremberg rallies. These vexilloids were topped with an eagle and a swastika and with the name of the particular locale of the SS contingent carrying the vexilloids. Inscribed on them was the slogan Deutschland Erwache which means Germany Awake.