Just about every swallow tattoo that you see comes with at least one swallow tattoo meaning, so it’s not just a simple drawing of a bird as many people assume. What’s great is that you can choose one or more meanings that you like, and you will also have a nice bird tattoo design that you can place pretty much anywhere on your body.
On this page, we will go over all of the most commonly used swallow tattoo meanings and we’ll take a look at some design options that you’ll have.
The swallow tattoo was initially used as a symbol by sailors to display their sailing experience. In the early days of sailing, it was usually an image of a barn swallow tattooed on one’s chest, neck or hands. These days you can get your swallow tattoo anywhere you want to and can still represent your love of sailing or the fact that you are an experienced sailor.
According to legend, one swallow meant the sailor had traveled over 5,000 nautical miles and two swallows meant a distance over 10,000 nautical miles. If you are going all-out with the sailor meaning, then you can have them lined up on your arm, or you could even go with one swallow on each side of your chest. If you are getting them to represent the distance you’ve traveled on the sea, then you can even include some text to show exactly what the swallow tattoo’s meaning is.
Due to the difficult nature of traveling such long distances, these tattoos denote a very experienced and valuable sailor. This is why swallow tattoos are seen as a kind of pride design in which people are glad to tell everyone who sees them how much experience they have on the sea. You can even use this meaning if you are new to sailing and simply want to show off this love to anyone who sees your tattoo.
Another legend tied to the swallow is that they were seen as a guarantee that the sailor would return home safely. This is because the swallow always returns to the same area to mate every year. In this way, the swallow tattoo is a good luck charm, so it really doesn’t have to represent sailing at all. This is a great idea for anyone who does not want to get a four-leaf clover or another more commonly seen “good luck” tattoo.
Some people believed that if the sailor were to perish at sea, the swallow would carry their soul to heaven. In this way, the swallow tattoo is a bit of a religious design. You can include it in a larger religious piece, or even make it the focal point of the design.
There was also a time when men would get swallows tattooed on the backs of their hands to symbolize that they were strong, vicious, and fast fighters. In England and Australia, it stood for “these fists fly” and became representative of working-class pride. If you are into boxing, MMA, or some other type of fighting, the swallow tattoo could be a great way to represent that. Classically these designs were placed on the hands, but you can use the same meaning no matter where you place your swallow.
The swallow is a bird that tends to mate for life, so this makes it a great symbol of love. If you choose to use the love meaning with your tattoo, then you can make this meaning clearer by either including an extra swallow or adding in other love symbols, such as a heart.
Like many birds, swallows symbolize loyalty since they will stay in groups to stay safe and be happy. This is a really good meaning to use if you are known for being a loyal person or you simply see loyalty as an extremely important trait. As with all of the other meanings listed here so far, you do not have to tweak your swallow design at all to make this meaning work.
Similarly, the swallow tattoo can also represent someone’s love for their family. Swallows are not the types of birds that separate from each other, so anyone who has a tight-knit family might find this to be the best swallow tattoo meaning for them. To make the meaning clearer, you could get multiple swallows in the tattoo, with each one representing one member of your family; you can even include their names if you want to take this idea a step further.
A swallow tattoo, like a bunch of other bird tattoos, can also signify freedom. To use this meaning people will often have their swallows in a flying motion with their wings spread out and perhaps diving at an angle down their skin. The swallow isn’t a commonly used bird to symbolize freedom, which might make it an attractive choice for those looking to get a unique bird tattoo.
The swallow tattoo is said to be a popular choice for inmates who are expecting to return home from prison. This meaning probably derived from sailors using the swallow design to symbolize their return home after struggles at sea. This is one of those prison tattoos that do not look like prison tattoos.
Traditionally, swallow tattoos were inked in muted colors or black and were simple and subtle designs. More modern swallow tattoos are full of color and can be more stylized and unique, though many people still opt to go with that classic style. Real swallows can be different mixes of brown, blue, orange, and white. You’ll want to look over some pictures of swallows to find the colors that you think would look good on your skin.
Regardless of the style selected, many people choose to get swallow tattoos to represent the meanings that were recently mentioned. Most people are surprised to find out just how many meanings can be attached to these birds, which is why they have shot up the rankings over the last decade or so. The truth is that if someone likes the look of the swallow, there’s a pretty good chance that they will easily be able to find a meaning that makes sense for them.
Not just for seafaring folks, the swallow tattoo can be a great choice for anyone who wants their artwork to symbolize freedom, victory, or return home. Even if you have never been out on the water, the swallow could still be the perfect bird tattoo to represent who you are. Just don’t be surprised if people who see your tattoo assume that you are a sailor or have spent a lot of time out at sea.
If any of those swallow tattoo meanings work for you, then you’ll want to work with a great artist so your design will look fantastic on your body. Most tattoo artists will have no problem working with you to figure out a design that will look good on your skin and a place to put it. Ideally, you will end up with the perfect-looking swallow tattoo in a place that looks natural.
While the swallow is not one of the most popular bird tattoos out there right now, it is certainly one of the more meaningful ones, especially for people who love being out on the ocean. It’s a great bird tattoo choice for people who want something a bit different and very meaningful.
If you do end up deciding to get a swallow tattoo, be sure to take your time during the design process, figure out a great place to put it on your body, and hire a tattoo artist who will make the swallow come alive on your skin. Do all of that and there’s a great chance that you will end up loving the look of the bird and any swallow tattoo meanings that you attach to it.