The first coat of arms of Warsaw depicted a dragon with a male human head, carrying a sword and a shield. The first known usage was on a seal from 1390. Gradually the male head and body was replaced with that of a female, and by the end of 16th century the tail was also changed from that of a dragon to that of a fish. The only remaining part of the original coat of arms are the sword and shield.
Since 1622, the Warsaw arms have been rendered as a mermaid with sword and shield in hand, representing Melusina from the River Vistula (Wisła), who in legend led Duke Boleslaus of Mazovia to the appropriate site (a fishing village) and ordered him to found the city, in about 1294. The city’s motto is, appropriately, Contemnit procellas (“It defies the storms”).
The current official design of the symbol was introduced in 1938 but it was only used in this form until the beginning of World War II. After 1945, Communist authorities changed the emblem by removing the crown. The insignia was restored to the pre-war form on August 15 1990.
In addition there is a "Great Emblem of the City of Warsaw" (Herb Wielki Miasta Stołeczego Warszawy) used only for ceremonial occasions. It includes a depiction of the Virtuti Militari medal, which was awarded to the City to honor the bravery of its citizens during World War II. It also adds the second motto to the emblem — Semper invicta (Always invincible).