What Do Tattoo Symbols Mean?

Tattoos often mean different things to different people, but Inked Magazine lists what some of the most common tattoos symbolize. For example, butterflies often symbolize rebirth and metamorphosis. Lions often symbolize strength, protection and courage. Tigers represent fearlessness, according to the Chinese zodiac, and are one of the three animals that symbolize anger in Buddhism. Eagles are often displayed by Americans to represent their patriotism.

Not all tattoo symbols involve animals. Many have religious significance. Inked Magazine states that the Scarab beetle, a well-known Egyptian amulet, is often tattooed to symbolize transformation and rebirth. The Ankh, which is a cross with a handle, is another popular Egyptian tattoo that symbolizes eternal life, according to Inked Magazine. Tattoos of Ganesh, the elephant-headed Hindu god represent new beginnings.

Some tattoos are frequently misused, and the swallow tattoo is one example. Swallows are birds that return to the same location each year to nest, so sailors had swallows tattooed on their bodies to help them return home safely. A sailor would get one swallow tattoo before his journey, and the other swallow tattoo would come when he arrived home. Swallow tattoos were evidence that a sailor was experienced. However, the swallow tattoo is common amongst people who have never sailed before.