Rope Tattoo Meaning, Design & Ideas

The average person does not think of ropes on a daily basis very much. This is untrue to sailors, however. Whether you are a sailor in the Navy or a sailor who sets out to sea for a day of fishing, you make great use of one of the best tools you have out in the open sea which is, the rope.

Ropes not only hold the boat close to the dock, they are used for countless number of things on the boat itself. Having a rope on deck is extremely vital to sailors; from those who work on a 130 thousand-pound oil tanker to those who simply take their sailboats out for a day on the lake, the rope is a pure necessity.

When it comes to ropes, knots are second nature. A strong and sturdy rope should be able to fasten whatever knot you may tie it up in. There are literally thousands of different knots that can come from a rope. Down below will be examples of rope tattoo designs, styles, placements, and the meaning and symbolism of such a tattoo.

Ropes and Knots

Sailors are known for using a ton of different knots when it comes to holding down or fastening objects to the boat so the back-and-forth rocking of the waves does not send the said object flying off the side. Not only are ropes and knots the best way to hold down cargo on a ship but they can also be used for numerous other reasons. Using ropes as a way of holding the ship at the dock has been the best, and oldest, way of doing so.

Using ropes while the sailors and crew are working on the ship is another important feature of the rope. Passing tools along to other crew members if one crew member is in a spot where it is hard to access the tools is another way ropes and knots are used. Tying a knot around a tool bag for instance and hoisting it up in the air to the next person makes the job a lot more convenient and safe. Although ropes may not look as if they are very strong, the strength of them is incredible.

Different knots may also have a part in the strength of the rope. If the knot that is tied is not strong enough, the knot will eventually break loose and either untangle itself or break apart thread by thread until it snaps. A strong enough knot, however, will make it difficult for this to happen. This is why sailors and fishermen are trained in tying knots with rope. It is a means of life or death when it comes to knowing how to tie a proper knot out at sea.

The unpredictable may happen out there in the middle of nowhere and you may have nothing left to save you other than a rope and a good knot technique. Boy Scouts are also another group that specializes in the use of ropes and knots for likewise reasons.


The symbolism of a rope tattoo is much like its purpose, to hold things together. Having a rope tattoo can mean a number of different things, depending on the story the person has to go along with it. Most often those with rope tattoos have been in the Navy as sailors or are fishermen. Not only can the rope save you, it is a tool that is versatile and well-needed.

A rope can symbolize the importance of having things stay together and secure. Much like life, we can use this as a way of representing the strong bond and forever loyalty to whatever this rope may be holding so close. Even though anyone can get this tattoo, in the Navy, a tattoo of rope tied around the wrist can mean that you are a deckhand, meaning you are the one who is in control of fastening down the cargo and gear on the ships.

Rope Designs

Before you get the tattoo of a rope, it is suggested that you know a little bit about knots and how they work. This is because if you are going to get a tattoo of a rope, you should make it look legit. There are tons of different knots that you could choose from, if you are a sailor or even a boy scout, some of these knots will stand out more than others. Being able to identify knots is useful, adding a knot to the rope tattoo adds to the creativity of the tattoo in general.


The bowline knot seems to be a fan favorite. It is also one of the most useful knots you can learn to tie when on a boat. The bowline knot resembles a noose, this noose however will not slip off and run. The great thing that so many people love about this particular knot is that no matter how tight the knot gets, it can easily be loosened and undone.

Sheet Bend

A sheet bend knot is another useful and practical knot that is used in everyday sailor life. This is a knot that connects two different ropes, to form as one and make the rope even longer if needed. This knot is useful when something is secured has a large and unequal diameter. Illustrating this as a tattoo could be interesting. With this knot, you could show the two different ropes intertwined together, perhaps one rope is a different color from the other so it is easier to distinguish. Having this knot wrapped around the wrist or arm could make for a neat tattoo and almost resemble a bracelet of some sort.

Anchor and Knot

Another idea for a rope tattoo is to have the rope attached to an anchor. This not only shows the bond between holding things together but it can also symbolize stability and the ability to stand your ground. As most rope and knot tattoos are wrapped around the wrist or arm, this tattoo of an anchor and rope could be depicted going down the arm, leg, or even the side or chest.

Whatever rope design you decide to choose, having the knot within it is optional. Of course, without the knot, the rope tattoo can be a little difficult to make out what it is. Giving the rope a knot can distinguish just what it really is and adds more purpose to the object.

These tattoos are often seen being wrapped around the wrist almost as if they are bracelets. Color can be added to these tattoos as well. A popular color other than the old-school black ink can be blue or even a golden yellow.

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