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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Fasces \Fas"ces\, n. pl. [L., pl. of fascis bundle; cf. fascia a band, and Gr. fa`kelos a bundle.], (Rom. Antiq.) A bundle of rods, having among them an ax with the blade projecting, borne before the Roman magistrates as a badge of their authority.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1590s, from Latin fasces "bundle of rods containing an axe with the blade projecting" (plural of fascis "bundle" of wood, etc.), from Proto-Italic *faski- "bundle," perhaps from PIE *bhasko- "band, bundle" (cognates: Middle Irish basc "neckband," Welsh baich "load, burden," perhaps also Old English bæst "inner bark of the linden tree"). Carried before a lictor, a superior Roman magistrate, as a symbol of power over life and limb: the sticks symbolized punishment by whipping, the axe-head execution by beheading. Hence in Latin it also meant, figuratively, "high office, supreme power."


n. A Roman symbol of judicial authority consisting of a bundle of wooden sticks, with an axe blade embedded in the centre; used also as a symbol of fascism


n. bundle of rods containing an axe with the blade protruding; in ancient Rome it was a symbol of a magistrate's power; in modern Italy it is a symbol of Fascism


thumb|upright=0.4|A fasces image, with the axe in the middle of the bundle of rods. Fasces (, (, , a plurale tantum, from the Latin word fascis, meaning "bundle") is a bound bundle of wooden rods, sometimes including an axe with its blade emerging. The fasces had its origin in the Etruscan civilization, and was passed on to ancient Rome, where it symbolized a magistrate's power and jurisdiction. The image has survived in the modern world as a representation of magisterial or collective power. The fasces frequently occurs as a charge in heraldry, it is present on an older design of the Mercury dime and behind the podium in the United States House of Representatives, it is used as the symbol of a number of Italian syndicalist groups, including the Unione Sindacale Italiana, and it was the origin of the name of the National Fascist Party in Italy (from which the term fascism is derived).

It should not be confused with the related term fess, which in French heraldry is called a fasce.

Usage examples of "fasces".

Brutus was, with the consent of his colleague, first attended by the fasces, who had not been a more zealous assertor of liberty than he was afterwards its guardian.

Most panels bore the scarab-and-wreath stamp of the Universities of Alexandria-in-Egypt, but some carried the fasces of the Roman School of Engineering, and a few were marked with the symbols of schools in Hausa, Africa.

He folded it and rolled it into its long fabric sheath, then, with Kaye’s help, unsocketed the tent poles and clapped them together into a fasces connected top to bottom by their stretching cords.