Arrow tattoos were originally based on Native American tribal life, hundreds of years ago. The arrow represented an essential tool in hunter-gatherer communities, serving as a weapon in hunting and in...

Arrow Tattoo Meanings

Arrow tattoos were originally based on Native American tribal life hundreds of years ago. The arrow represented an essential tool in hunter-gatherer communities, serving as a weapon in hunting and in war. Though a simple design, this symbol is extremely popular because of the various powerful, positive meanings associated with it.

In this article, we’ll do a deep dive into the arrow tattoo, covering different potential meanings, styles, locations, and companion designs that a person may choose to get with their arrow tattoo. Read on to find out everything you need to know to help you learn about and plan your own arrow tattoo.

Arrow Tattoo Meanings

The arrow tattoo is incredibly versatile, with a large number of potential meanings depending on the wearer’s intention and interpretation. Below, we go over some of the possible meanings that an arrow tattoo can have.

The Arrow as a Symbol of Individuality

Many people who get arrow tattoos do so to reference the arrow as a symbol of individuality, specifically as it applies to the idea of “following one’s own arrow,” or taking the path that is true to you instead of what is easiest or most common. This concept was referenced in Kacey Musgraves’ song “Follow Your Arrow,” where she sings, “So, make lots of noise / Kiss lots of boys / Or kiss lots of girls / If that’s something you’re into / When the straight and narrow / Gets a little too straight / Roll up a joint, or don’t / Just follow your arrow / Wherever it points.”

The Arrow Signifying Direction

Due to its nature as pointing in a specific direction, many people view an arrow tattoo as a symbol of direction, ambition, and commitment to a goal and moving forward. This can be related to motivation, perseverance, and intention. Somebody may get an arrow tattoo referencing a specific goal or otherwise just the concept of having a purpose or calling.

The Meaning of Arrows in Native American Tradition

Tattooing has been a part of Native American culture for centuries, used as part of rituals and bearing many different relevant meanings such as family lineage, clan crest, social rank, relationship to the territory, and hunting and fishing rights. One of the most common designs in Native American tribal tattooing was the arrow, which signified different things for different tribes.

For example, the Lakota tribe sees the arrow as a metaphor for life, particularly as it is paired with the bow. The bow represents feminine, lunar energy and the arrow represents the masculine, solar energy. The bow and arrow are gifts from the moon and sun respectively, working in tandem with each other as a powerful instrument. This can be seen as a metaphor for life, in which people must marry the opposite sides of themselves, both their masculine and feminine energies, to accomplish their goals.

In Native American tradition, the detail of how an arrow tattoo was rendered could affect its meaning. An arrow tattoo facing left was meant to ward off evil, while an arrow tattoo facing right signified protection. An arrow tattoo facing down or a broken arrow meant peace or settling a feud. Similarly, a crossed arrow tattoo referred to an allyship. Meanwhile, an arrowhead tattoo referenced focus and staying alert.

Arrows in Greek Mythology

The arrow symbol also held significant meaning in the ancient Greek civilization, specifically insofar as it is relevant to various Greek gods and goddesses. For one, it can reference Cupid, the winged agent of love who can make people fall in love by striking them with his arrow. In this sense, an arrow tattoo can symbolize love, lust, and desire.

The arrow was also significant to the Greek goddess Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, and Apollo, Artemis’ twin brother, who is usually described as carrying a golden bow and a quiver of silver arrows and is known as a complicated god with many abilities including warding off evil, being exceptionally handsome, healing, protecting the young, and presiding over music, dance, song, and poetry.

Arrow Symbolism in Hinduism

Hinduism is another religion that associated significant meaning with the arrow symbol. The god Rudra, an expert archer, is associated with healing and disease, the wind and the storm. Not a god for the faint of heart, Rudra is the incredibly powerful personification of destruction.

Arrows in the Zodiac

Those born between November 23 and December 21 may have a special interest in the arrow tattoo, which is part of the symbol of the zodiac sign Sagittarius. Here, the arrow symbolizes a bridge between heaven and earth, as well as directness and swiftness. Sagittarians are thought to be blunt and honest, delivering messages of truth. In 2019, Taylor Swift released her song “The Archer,” referencing this zodiac sign and the powerful nature of the bow and arrow as a symbol of the Sagittarius.

Arrows as Strength

As part of the weapon the bow and arrow, an arrow can represent strength, fight, protection, and safety. Being that this is one of the most ancient forms of weaponry, the arrow can also be a callback to tradition and the land.

Broken Arrows

When depicted broken into two or many pieces, the arrow tattoo becomes a symbol of peace, reconciliation, and a new chapter, as though a time of conflict is coming to an end and a person is laying down their weapon with the goal of moving on toward more peaceful times.

A Bundle of Arrows

In contrast, a number of arrows grouped together in a bundle is usually referencing being ready for battle. This can also refer to the symbol of one of the five founding tribes of the Iroquois League, as well as the concept of strength and unity.

Two Arrow Designs

A tattoo design with two arrows pointing in opposite directions represents war or conflict. However, if the two arrows are crossed, the tattoo most likely represents truce and friendship. Many people get two crossed arrows as a dedication to someone they love or have a close relationship with, often even as matching tattoos.

Top Arrow Tattoo Styles

As an incredibly versatile design, the arrow tattoo looks fantastic rendered in many different tattooing styles. Below is a list of some that look particularly good.

Geometric Arrow Tattoos

Geometric Arrow Tattoo Design

Source: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/7c/1f/d3/7c1fd391b55f670675a2f6139256e2ff.jpg

Arrows are by nature a very geometric design with clean lines and sharp angles. That makes them a great fit for the geometric tattoo style, which uses lines, shapes, and dots to create a modern, harmonious effect in a tattoo.

Line Work Arrows

Line and Dot Work Arrow Tattoo

Source: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/e5/ce/b5/e5ceb536d1f804796985b9f589fa7133.png

In a similar way, arrow tattoos are also a great candidate for line work and dot work styles, which heavily feature lines and dots as part of the tattoo’s design, shading, and detail. This tattooing style can take even a simple image like an arrow and make it look much more intricate and visually interesting. This is typically a more masculine version of an arrow tattoo.

Watercolor Arrow

Watercolor Tattoo Design Idea

Source: https://www.pinterest.cl/pin/719027896747564990/

Watercolor is a relatively new tattooing style that has recently blown up in popularity, and it’s one that people often choose for their arrow tattoos. This may be because the arrow has a more intense, strong, and masculine energy by nature, and the watercolor style provides an interesting contrast with its organic shapes and beautiful, more feminine colors. While this is a style more often chosen by women, it can look great on men, too.

Stick and Poke Arrow Tattoos

Stick and Poke Arrow Tattoo

Source: https://www.askideas.com/media/68/Small-Arrow-tattoo.jpg

Stick and poke tattoos, whether done at home or by a professional in a studio, usually work best with simple subject matter that can be done quickly and on a smaller scale. That’s what makes arrows such a great choice for a stick and poke design, especially since they are rather easy to draw and are highly identifiable even if rendered in a way that isn’t completely perfect.

Best Places for Arrow Tattoos

Arrow tattoos are simple enough to be doable on any body part, though their more delicate and linear nature makes them an especially great choice for the following locations.

Ankle

One very sweet version of an arrow tattoo is to get one on the ankle, wrapped around like an anklet. Of course, an arrow tattoo will also look fantastic as a regular ankle tattoo along the side, but this is one of the few tattoo designs that really lends itself to the ankle placement.

Finger

Getting a small arrow tattoo on the finger creates the effect of the arrow pointing, either outwards or toward you, which can be a really cool look for anybody who is comfortable getting tattooed on as visible a body part as the finger.

Forearm

The forearm is a wonderful placement choice for a more detailed, larger arrow tattoo, as there is more skin real estate to work with, especially if you want your arrow tattoo to have other design elements, like the ones mentioned below.

Foot

Arrow tattoos are much longer than they are wide, which makes them a very good fit for body parts with the same type of proportions. That’s why along the side of the foot is a fantastic choice for an arrow tattoo spot.

Ribs

The ribs are another place where an arrow tattoo at a larger scale and/or with more detail and intricacy can really shine. This is a great location to play with the nature of the arrow tattoo, such as the direction the arrow is pointing, as the meaning can change depending on if your arrow is facing up toward the sky or down toward the ground. It’s also a cheeky choice for a heart and arrow tattoo design.

What Works Well with Arrow Tattoos?

Arrow tattoos look fantastic on their own, but they can also pair well with other types of designs, which can make the arrow tattoo look more complex and enhance its meaning. Here are some other images that work well with the arrow tattoo.

Bow and Arrow Tattoo

Bow with Arrow Tattoo Design

Source: https://3d-tatt.blogspot.com/2016/07/2-crossed-arrow-tattoo-meaning.html

An obvious choice to get with an arrow is a bow, which is part of the weapon that arrows are used in. When tattooed together, a bow and arrow tattoo can symbolize conflict, tension, intense focus, readiness, aim, and life struggle. However, when a tattoo is of an arrow being released from a bow, it can also be referencing a positive transition in one’s life – or more generally the act of moving forward, as well as action.

Compass Arrow Tattoo

Compass with Arrows Tattoo

Source: https://www.art.tattoo/compass-tattoo

Many people like to get arrow tattoos with a compass, most often pointing in one of the cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west). This design generally tends to symbolize a new direction, signifying anything from a new chapter in one’s life to a new relationship. It can also reference the ability to transcend time and space, as well as the limitations that people put on themselves or have put upon them.

Arrow and Moon Tattoo

Arrow and Moon Tattoo Design

Source: https://tattoogrid.net/moon-arrow-by-tattooist-nemo/

An arrow and moon tattoo can symbolize many different things, such as the union of masculine and feminine energies, as the moon is often viewed as having female energy while the arrow can be thought of as more masculine. This combination of tattoos can also more generally symbolize a deep connection to nature.

Arrow and Text Tattoo

Rise Arrow Tattoo

Source: https://i.pinimg.com/474x/de/fa/34/defa3469ed836da87fc073c8e4bbed49.jpg

If your arrow tattoo is meant to symbolize a particular goal or ambition that you have, pairing it with text can be a great way to be very clear about the specific direction you are hoping to go in.

Arrow and Feather Tattoo

Arrow and Feather Tattoo Design

Source: https://www.styleinterest.com/arrow-tattoo-designs/

When an arrow is depicted in combination with a feather, it is most often referencing lightness, quickness, and precision, being undetectable and stealthy. It’s a great tattoo for archers or athletes who are required to be nimble and agile. This can also symbolize liberty, triumph, and independence.

Arrow and Flower Tattoo

Arrow with Flowers and Writing Tattoo Design

Source: https://glaminati.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/tp-arrow-tattoo-designs-1.jpg

Another common combination is the arrow tattoo with flowers, which is another example of the masculine arrow being contrasted with a more feminine design. This symbolizes a balance of vulnerability and softness with ferocity.

Arrow and Heart Tattoo

Arrow piercing a heart tattoo

Source: https://media1.popsugar-assets.com/

Most often referencing the Cupid myth mentioned above, an arrow piercing a heart is a very common tattoo that most often strives to symbolize love, romance, and the experience of falling for somebody in a way that may even feel out of one’s control.

Arrow and Diamond Tattoo

Arrow and Diamond

Source: https://www.askideas.com/arrow-in-diamond-design-tattoo-on-arm/

Since the diamond is known as one of the hardest, toughest materials on earth, an arrow shaft with a diamond shape on it symbolizes the courage to move forward or invincibility.

Arrow Tattoo Dictionary

Arrow on a Bow Tattoo Design:

in tattoo art, an arrow being pulled back on a bow symbolizes conflict, tension or life struggle.

Arrow Released from a Bow Tattoo Design:

a natural transition from the last symbol, the arrow that has just been released from the bow stands for a positive transition in one’s life- or more generally for moving forward.

Broken Arrow Tattoo Design:

a snapped arrow is symbolic of peace or the act of burying the hatchet- that is, putting away the weapon.

Bundle of Arrows Tattoo Design:

originally a representation of one of the five founding tribes of the Iroquois League, a tattoo design that shows a bundle of arrows signifies strength and unity.

Arrow and Compass Tattoo Design:

this design has an arrow running through one of the compass’ directional points, to represent new direction, signifying anything from a new chapter in one’s life to a new relationship.

Crossed Arrows Tattoo Design:

a tattoo design showing two arrows that are crossed represents friendship.

Cupid Arrow Tattoo Design:

a tattoo design with an arrow piercing through the heart represents love or romance. In classical mythology, Cupid was the god of erotic love and desire, and being struck by his arrow would fill one with romantic desire for another.

Diamond Arrow Tattoo Design:

Since the diamond is known as one of the hardest, toughest materials on earth, an arrow shaft with a diamond shape on it symbolizes the courage to move forward or invincibility.

Downward Arrow Tattoo Design:

in Native Indian culture, a downward pointing arrow represents peace.

Feather Arrow Tattoo Design:

a feather through the shaft of an arrow stands for liberty, triumph, and independence.

Left Pointing Arrow Tattoo Design:

while most arrows point in the right direction, a tattoo with a left pointing arrow symbolizes the desire to chase something away from you.

Singular Arrow Tattoo Design:

a standard arrow design stands for defense or protection from harm.

Two Arrows Pointing Away Tattoo Design:

a tattoo design with two arrows pointing in opposite directions represents war or conflict.

A classic and simple design, the arrow represents many fundamental human values and truths. Whether it stands for harmony, conflict, or personal progress, the arrow is a time-honored symbol that almost everyone can relate to.

Arrow Tattoo Gallery

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