Alligator Tattoo Meaning, Designs & Ideas

The word ‘alligator’ comes from the Spanish’ el lagarto’, meaning lizard. This commonly tattooed creature is identifiable by its gnarled, scaly skin. Alligator tattoos often symbolize strength and power but can also be a sign of good fortune. The alligator is also representative of different meanings in Native American and Chinese cultures.

In this article, we will look at the various meanings of alligator tattoos and why people might choose this animal for their tattoo.

All About Alligators

Often confused with the crocodile, the alligator is different in two distinct visible ways. First, when the jaw of the alligator is closed, only the upper teeth are visible, whereas with the crocodile, you can see the lower teeth as well. Second, the alligator has a rounded snout and the crocodile has a pointed snout.

Alligators are relatively rare creatures that are only found in three areas of the world: the southern United States, Mexico, and China. In the U.S. these animals are mainly found in Florida and Louisiana but can also live in Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Alabama, South Carolina, and Oklahoma.

Alligator Tattoos

There are some truly striking alligator tattoos that feature incredible detail of the skin and scales of the animal. Alligator pieces tend to be large and may include just the head or the entire body. These tattoos are often done in color though there are black and gray pieces as well. 

Alligator tattoos typically feature the animal alone, sometimes with water or plants surrounding it. Many of these tattoos depict a realistic image of the alligator, although some pieces are designed to have more of a cartoon look to them. Men tend to be more likely than women to get a tattoo of an alligator, likely because of its association with strength.

Strength and Power

Alligators are incredibly strong creatures who use their power to their advantage when it comes to hunting and feeding. The muscles used for closing their jaw or gripping something in their mouth are particularly strong and once an alligator gets hold of its prey, it isn’t letting go. 

They mainly feed on smaller reptiles, deer, muskrats, birds, turtles, and fish. Alligators often eat their prey in a single bite. The average alligator weighs almost 800 pounds and is 13 feet long, making them a very powerful predator.

An alligator tattoo can symbolize the power and strength that the animal possesses. The person with such a tattoo may desire to have this type of strength in their own life. The alligator can represent both physical power and mental toughness. Choosing an alligator tattoo can be symbolic of a person’s commitment to developing more power in their career as well.

Tough Exterior

Alligators have a dark, rough, scaly exterior on the upper half of their bodies that presents a tough, intimidating image. But underneath, their bellies are white and soft, a more vulnerable side. An alligator tattoo can be a representation of the person’s own tough exterior and vulnerable interior.

Many people present an image of toughness and impenetrability to deter people from getting close to them. This is typically done because the person has been hurt before when they allowed themselves to be vulnerable. By acting tough and being strong, they try to avoid the pain of being hurt again.

The alligator tattoo might be a way of showing that the person is made up of these two competing forces. Part of them desires that closeness with other people and wants to open themselves up to others but due to past hurts, they continue to display their tough side and create barriers. 

Good Fortune

In Chinese culture, the alligator represents luck and good fortune. The Chinese alligator is much smaller than its American counterpart, weighing around 100 pounds and measuring 6 feet in length. These creatures were often killed for their meat as well as to use their organs for medicinal reasons. The Chinese alligator is now critically endangered.

With fewer than 100 mature Chinese alligators in existence today, many Chinese people consider these animals to be symbols of good luck since they are so rare. Although the Chinese alligator differs from the American alligator, either one could be depicted in a tattoo to represent good fortune.

Someone who is trying to create more prosperity, health, or love in their life may choose to get an alligator tattoo. By having a visual image of the animal, some people believe that this will manifest good fortune in their lives.


Since alligators are so large, they must be creative and patient when they hunt so they are not seen by their prey. Their green-brown skin and scales allow them to camouflage themselves but they still need to be stealthy when hunting prey. Alligators conceal themselves and lie in wait for the right time to attack.

An alligator tattoo can represent patience in a person and act as a reminder that sometimes we need to wait for the right moment. The tattoo is also a symbol of the need to grasp opportunities when they arise because we might not get another chance.

Native American Beliefs

In different Native American cultures, the alligator represents protection and healing. The strength and power of the animal make it an ideal protector, while its water habitat symbolizes cleansing and healing. Alligators mainly live in lakes, rivers, swamps, and ponds.

Someone who is seeking an element of protection in their life might choose to get an alligator tattoo for this reason. The image may provide them with comfort or courage to face what comes their way. Some individuals believe that the image of this animal will help to safeguard them against potential dangers.

A person who is looking for healing in their life might also choose to get an alligator tattoo. Whether they are experiencing physical illness or disease, or they are struggling with emotional or psychological distress, this tattoo may provide hope that they can be healed and recover from their adversity.

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