The name of the pirate flag, the Jolly Roger, might have been named after the devil- Old Roger, but it is more probable it comes from the French name Jolie Rouge which means lovely or pretty red.It was a blood-red flag flown by pirates who intended to kill everyone on board a ship they were about to attack.There were many different Jolly Roger flags.Pirates had their own versions of the Jolly Roger but all of them were guaranteed to strike terror into sailors' hearts.Pirates probably borrowed the symbols they used on Jolly Rogers from gravestones.Usually a skull and crossbones, which was the most common on a Jolly Roger, represented death.Sometimes pirates had hourglasses with or without wings to show time was running out for the ship they were going to attack.
Thefirst Jolly Roger appeared around 1700 when the pirate Emmanuel Wynne hoisted one in the Caribbean.The flag quickly caught on and other pirates designed their own versions.When pirates neared a target, sometimes they raised a friendly flag and then at the last minute, they would raise a Jolly Roger to frighten their enemy into surrendering.When pirates were giving chase, they hoisted a white flag, and if the ship refused to slow down then the pirates usually raised a red flag which symbolized blood.It also meant that once the pirates boarded the ship, no lives would be spared.Pirates often stole flags from captured ships to add to their collection of false flags.