Crescent (Lat. crescere, to increase), originally an epithet applied to the moon in its first quarter, when its disk is enlarging and its horns are acute. Any figure or likeness of the new moon was afterward termed a crescent, which became a favorite form for ornaments. The Syrian Astarte and the Greek Artemis were often represented with it placed horizontally over their brows, having its horns turned upward. An ivory crescent was worn as a sort of buckle for the cothurnus by wealthy Athenians, and Roman matrons used it as a decoration for the hair. The crescent was especially a Byzantine symbol, and when the Turks became masters of Constantinople they adopted it as an emblem of their growing empire. - In 1448 a military order of the crescent was instituted by King Rene of Anjou. It was composed of 50 noble knights, each of whom wore an enamelled crescent on the right arm, from which was suspended a number of small wooden columns equal to that of the combats in which he had been engaged. In 1799, after the battle of the Nile, the sultan Selim III. presented to Nelson a splendid crescent adorned with diamonds, which became a favorite ornament of the English admiral, who often declared himself a knight of the crescent.

This circumstance induced the sultan to found in 1801 the order of the crescent, to be conferred as an honor upon foreigners who had deserved well of Turkey.