Many people have seen the 2014 film John Wick which follows an ex-hitman around on his journey to exact revenge on a Russian mob family whose arrogant, young “prince” son set John Wick (Keanu Reeves) into his killing spree.
One thing many will notice when watching this action-packed movie is John Wick’s tattoo on his back. After seeing this, one would assume this tattoo has a lot of meaning because of Wick’s past. In this post, we will talk about this tattoo and our translation to the piece.
John Wick Plot
John Wick had recently lost his wife to a terminal illness and was still reeling from the loss. The last thing she left him was a beagle puppy that was named Daisy. This gift was to help the former assassin move on with his life and potentially find new meaning.
John runs into Iosef Tarasov, son of Russian mob boss Viggo Tarasov, who decides to get mouthy with John. Wick, being “retired”, moved on from the incident and went home. However, Iosef wasn’t going to let this go and went to Wick’s place to pay him a visit. On this visit, Iosef and his crew bust up Wick’s place, knock Wick out, steal his car and the kicker, kill his dog.
This brings Wick out of retirement to exact revenge on Iosef and the whole family. Wick carefully orchestrates a flurry of destruction against the whole family who know full well who Wick is now.
John Wick Tattoo Meaning
This leads us to the meaning of Wick’s tattoo on his back which happens to be relevant to the movie plot. The tattoo says “Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat” across the top of his back with praying hands under the Latin writing.
Now, many might think this phrase comes from the US military groups who have the motto that states “fortes fortuna juvat” or fortune favors the bold, as a slogan for many years. However, there is quite a difference between this slogan and what is on John Wicks’s back. Many also think this phrase is Christian when in fact, it is quite the opposite as it is a proverb about Fortuna, the pagan goddess. Not only this, but some might guess it’s non-Christian meaning by the way John Wick slaughters those who cross him.
The spelling of this phrase links its heritage to the oldest kind of Latin which happens to be a lot older than the medieval Latin Church or the US Marine Corps. This proverb was even said to be ancient in the times of Caesar. This puts it in pagan territory and it’s important to keep this in mind in deciphering Wick’s tattoo.
To get to the root meaning of this tattoo, let us break down the phrase one word at a time.
The first word in Wick’s tattoo is fortis which means “The Strong Ones”. This is not just a noun but, a plural noun which is important to note. This word refers to a group of people as opposed to having the intention of ‘bravery’ or ‘boldness’ describing one person.
The second word in the pagan phrase is Fortuna. Fortuna is a Roman goddess and if you look closely, you can see the word is ever so slightly capitalized as to notate a proper noun. Fortuna is a living example of Fate and/or Luck. This could represent good or bad luck but not fortune in terms of money or a sense of good luck.
Finally, you’ve got the word Adiuvat. In breaking down this word, you’ve got AD (meaning toward/to) with IUVAT (meaning aid/save/help). This follows the name Fortuna, and this would mean the aid of the goddess. This means she would come to the aid of someone instead of ‘fortune-favoring’ someone. This is an important differentiator.
After breaking down this phrase, we can say that it means the goddess Fortuna will come to save The Strong ones. This is quite the opposite of a phrase like “the meek will inherit the earth”, which happens to be fitting for John Wick. It’s also different than the phrase, “Fortune favors the bold”.
After defining the phrase, we move down to the praying hands which happen to have a connection with religion and non-pagan worship. In addition, you’ll notice the phrase above the praying hands which would mean it is “above” the meaning of the praying hands. It is difficult to determine the connection of the two, but they are contradicting images.
In summary, the meaning of this tattoo has no relevance or connection with Christianity, nor does it have a connection with the military. It tells us a man should rely on his own strength to accomplish the goals he has set out for himself instead of leaving things up to fate or luck.
This is only empowered by knowing that John Wick is/was an assassin which wouldn’t lead you to believe he has any sort of religious background.
People will take this tattoo to mean what they want it to mean. There are some signs that it might have a connection to Christianity but if you look closer, you will see the differences in the tattoos you think you are seeing.
We would suggest if you are planning on getting the same tattoo as John Wick, you better be one bad son of a gun. People will either get the wrong idea about you or think you are a devout Christian. I suppose that is a good thing if you happen to not be in the assassination business.
We hope this explanation cleared up a bit of the confusion about this tattoo or at least gave you a starting point to figure out what it means to you. If you are thinking of getting this tattoo, make sure you do your research on an artist you feel comfortable with and if you are having trouble finding an artist to help you, reach out and ask us. The team at Tattoo SEO has years of experience matching up customers with tattoo artists. Happy hunting.