The Meaning Behind Traditional Tattoos

Updated on July 20, 2021

Do you like the Traditional Tattoo Style? Some people think it’s old-fashioned, but some people find them charming. The bold, clean lines and bright, vivid colors are quite eye-catching and have a timeless appeal. The practice of tattooing goes back to ancient times, of course, but these tattoos introduced in the 1930s were the start of modern commercial tattooing. At the time, tattoos were a sign of rugged individualism (To an extent, they still are) and favored by sailors, bikers, and other “tough guys”. What do the subjects of these tats really mean, though? 

The Swallow

The swallow is a migratory bird that always returns to the exact spot it used to live. This tat is favored by sailors because it means “I will always return.” The swallow is for someone who likes their freedom but is also very loyal. One nautical belief about swallow tattoos is that if the sailor is lost at sea, the swallows will fly him to Heaven. 

The Scorpion

Were you born under the sign of Scorpio? The scorpion represents someone focused, sensitive, sensual and ambitious if secretive, and a little jealous. This tat is favored by fighters because it means “unexpected danger”. In the LGBT community, it is a tat that symbols the wearer is HIV positive. 

The Eagle

Because the bald eagle is the national bird of the United States, many people in the U.S. military like to get a tattoo of one. The eagle’s great wings make it a perfect symbol of freedom and lofty thoughts. The eagle is also known for keen vision, making it a good tattoo for sharpshooters.

The Rose

Traditionally, a rose, particularly a red one, means “true love”. As a tattoo, the meanings are more varied. Red rose tattoos are often a memorial to someone lost. The bloom of this flower can mean hope but the thorns represent loss. The number and color of the petals ascribe more meaning. 

The Tomahawk

Do you have any Native American blood? The tomahawk is a tool and weapon used by many tribes. Its name comes from the Algonquian meaning simply “cutting tool” While a tomahawk could be a tool, it could also be a deadly weapon. It represents strength in both peace and war.  

The Anchor

Everyone’s favorite sailor, Popeye, is known to have an anchor tattooed to each forearm. It’s appropriate that a character known for their strength has anchor tattoos. The anchor also represents steadfastness, salvation, and stability. Some sailors get anchor tattoos to celebrate crossing the Atlantic Ocean.  

There are many other subjects for traditional tattoos. They have many meanings. But the important question is “What does this mean to you?” 

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