Compass Tattoo

Compass Tattoos: Meanings, Tattoo Styles & Tattoo Ideas

Never lose track of your true north!

Compass Tattoos

Compass tattoos are a universal symbol for direction in life, and the symbolic choices that we make.

Compasses are popular symbols in art, jewelry, and tattooing.

A compass tattoo can be the mark of an explorer, a symbolic image, and is often both.

There is a spiritual value in getting lost, but nothing compares to the feeling of finding your way back again.

Your tattoo can remind you of all the times you’ve found your way out of the dark, and that you’re capable of navigating any situation you put yourself into.

It can even refer to a higher power that is guiding and protecting you from danger.

You can use a compass tattoo to remind you where you’ve been, show you where you are right now, and remind you of what direction to head toward next.

Some people choose compass tattoos to celebrate their journey toward self-discovery; others get the tattoo as a symbol of their independence.

That’s why so many folks have compass tattoos- they feel a kinship to this tiny, loyal companion.

It is also a symbol to be grounded and humble while staying aware of your divinity.

So what does the compass tattoo represent?

Compass Tattoo Meanings

A person may get a compass tattoo to remind themselves of their “True North.”

True North could be a strong set of values, but it may also be a goal you’re striving toward.

If you’ve got your eyes on the prize, a compass tattoo may help remind you to keep going, even when the spiritual terrain gets rocky.

Let’s take a look at some of the most basic elements of compass tattoo meanings:

  • Adventure
  • Independence
  • Wrong Path
  • Guidance/Direction
  • Good Luck
  • Protection

A compass tattoo may suit someone who has traveled a difficult road but accepts their past self and keeps striving to improve.

The compass also is often used to navigate along with bodies of water; therefore it is a typical nautical tattoo like a boat or an anchor.

Compass tattoos can mean independence and you may want to get one if you have found your own direction.

However, depending on the tattoo style and design, a compass tattoo could also mean that you are traveling in the wrong direction in life.

The compass is considered a lucky tattoo symbol, especially for travelers.

To wear one on your body is an act of faith, that you will always find your way when you are lost.

A compass tattoo can be something of a magic talisman.

It may comfort you when you feel lost, either literally or figuratively.

If you feel yourself constantly being knocked off course, a compass tattoo can be a symbol of protection.

Use it to give yourself a boost of confidence when critics try to block your True North.

A compass tattoo can be a symbol to remember one’s nautical adventures.

Travel has become a priority to most modern people, who have realized that accumulating things isn’t as interesting as having experiences.

Because of its navigational value, compact size, and long history at sea, the compass tattoo is a natural symbol for world travelers.

A compass tattoo can represent someone who isn’t ready to settle down, who won’t be satisfied until they see it all and meet all kinds of fascinating people.

Whether you’re a sailor, a marine, or any other profession related to water travel, getting this tattoo could mean you are proud of your livelihood.

Independence is another meaning of the compass tattoo.

Compass tattoos point in one direction, leading to the idea that your own experience traveling through life is no one’s path but your own.

You may even point the compass in the navigational direction of the geographical place that gave you your independence.

If you feel that you may be on the wrong path in life, this could be a tattoo for you.

To get past negative life events, sometimes a tattoo is required to signify that you are making progress due to its permanency.

Last, a compass tattoo symbolizes either needing guidance in life or having guidance from someone special such as a religious figure, or your grandmother, for example.

A lot of people struggle with finding direction; but once you have it, it is worth celebrating with a compass tattoo.

What Does a Compass Tattoo mean in the Bible?

In Christianity, the compass tattoo symbolizes having direction in your faith and the solidity of your beliefs.

It also symbolizes religious guidance.

The Meaning of The Four Directions

The compass can represent seasons, stages of life, and the four cardinal directions.

Though it varies from tradition to tradition, the four directions of a compass tattoo typically symbolize:

  • North: Winter, survival, turning inward, cultivating your resources, reflecting on past lessons.
  • South: Summer, passion and abundance, a celebration, sun energy, creating new life, fertility.
  • East: Spring, new life, emerging triumphant, reclaiming your power.
  • West: Autumn, preparing for transformation, harvesting, slowing down, preparing for Winter.

Compass Tattoo Designs

So you know what you want to get but aren’t sure what tattoo design would work best.

We’ve been there!

Compass tattoos are often paired with other nautical and navigational tattoo motifs.

Here are a few of the coolest compass tattoo designs we’ve come across, so let’s have a look at the meanings of different compass tattoo themes:

Map & Compass Tattoos

Some of the best tattoos keep it simple.

If you’re getting a compass tattoo to celebrate an epic adventure or your restless wandering spirit, a compass with a map tattoo says it all.

They’re both practical items that can be drawn in really beautiful tattoo styles.

Whether you go black and grey, sepia, or full color, you’re sure to start some fun conversations with this tattoo design.

Map and Compass Tattoo
Map and Compass Tattoo
Map and Compass Tattoo

A map and compass tattoo typically has the compass in the foreground with the background being the continents or a map with vertical and horizontal lines.

Maps guide us to where we need to get to; just as a compass lets us know what direction we are going in to help us find our way.

Therefore, a map tattoo with a compass tattoo symbolizes that someone is guiding you through life, or alternatively, that you need more guidance.

Vegvisir Tattoos

Fans of Vikings and Norse mythology tattoos are likely aware of the Vegvisir, which may also be referred to as the Nordic Compass, or the Wayfinder.

The Viking compass tattoo is a symbol of protection and luck for travelers.

The Vegvisir is a circle with 8 points originating from the center.

Each of these points is adorned with a rune.

It looks very much like a traditional compass but has mystical undertones.

The earliest, most well-known reference to this symbol is in the Huld Manuscript.

The Manuscript is a collection of Icelandic spells and symbols, also known as a grimoire in the magic community.

In the Huld Manuscript, there is a picture of the Vegvisir with the following caption:

“If this sign is carried, one will never lose one’s way in storms or bad weather, even when the way is not known”.

Vegvisir Tattoo
Vegvisir Tattoo
Viking Compass Tattoo

This was meant both practically (a compass can help you find your way), and poetically (the symbol has the magic to protect a traveler from harm.)

The Vegvisir’s origins are in the 19th century, after the Viking era, but that doesn’t make the symbol any less magical.

Some speculate that it may have been used during the Vikings’ era without being recorded, which is entirely possible as there is much mystery surrounding the Vikings.

In any case, it is a cool tattoo design for someone with an interest in magic, Norse mythology tattoos, and seeing the world.

Some Viking compass tattoos, such as the Vegvísir tattoo, were symbols of protection from evil.

Part of Norse mythology, the Vegvísir tattoo is a nautical tattoo that also is meant to guide the person wearing it.

Another example of a Viking tattoo is a compass designed with the language of the runes, an Icelandic and Celtic language.

This tattoo is a strong symbol of masculinity.

Broken Compass Tattoos

When a compass is broken in a tattoo, it signifies the opposite of the typical meaning of guidance.

A broken compass tattoo means you have lost your way, or in other words, your direction has been broken along the way.

Broken Compass Tattoo

Owl & Compass Tattoos

Owls are often known to be protectors of the dead.

Owl and Compass Tattoo

The compass also means protection, so when they are together this tattoo means you are protected from evil spirits or your loved ones who have passed are protected by spirits, God, ancestors, or whatever you believe in.

Compass with Nautical Tattoos

A compass tattoo with some nautical tattoo references would be perfect for you, for those who work in nautical jobs or who are in the marines.

The nautical tattoo of the compass can be a symbol for those who spend their lives on the water.

Often connected to water, or to an anchor, nautical compass tattoos commemorate someone’s dedication to sailors.

Anchor & Compass Tattoos

A compass tattoo with an anchor tattoo is a reminder to always stay grounded and keep your wits about you.

Also, when an anchor and a compass are together in a tattoo, it refers to navigation of the sea and nautical adventures.

Anchor and Compass Tattoo

This nautical tattoo undoubtedly refers to the sea.

This would be a great tattoo to get if you’re a sailor or fisherman; or if you are a marine!

Nautical Star & Compass Tattoos

The nautical star compass tattoo is one of the most popular themes in compass tattoos.

The nautical star comes from the tradition of sailors following the North Star to find their way.

Nautical Star and Compass Tattoo

This tattoo always leads you back home.

A nautical star tattoo with a compass tattoo means you should never forget where you come from.

Ship & Compass Tattoos

A nautical tattoo, the ship and compass tattoo refer to life on the ocean and is a great tattoo for seamen.

A compass with a ship tattoo is a talisman, symbolizing that a good vessel (your body, mind, and spirit) will take you far.

Ship & Compass Tattoo

The compass tattoo is often placed above or below a large ship tattoo, typically in blues, reds, and black.

Compass Rose Tattoos

Sometimes a simple tattoo design has the biggest effect.

Many compass tattoos are bare-bones, featuring a compass rose tattoo on its own.

A compass rose also called the rose of the winds, is a symbol used to display one of the cardinal directions.

Aesthetically, some may add two roses on either side of the compass or in the center of the compass rose.

People choose a compass rose tattoo because it has a meaning depending on where the compass rose is pointing.

For example, when the compass rose tattoo is pointing north, it signifies that the person is heading in the right direction.

If it’s pointing on the opposite side, the south, it can mean boldness and the adventure of a young soul.

 Compass Rose Tattoo
Compass Rose Tattoo

If you’re getting a compass rose tattoo and want more than four points, your design will have to be on the larger side.

The more detail a small tattoo has, the more likely it can blur as it ages.

That is why most micro tattoos have less detail- your artist doesn’t want to cram a lot of ink into a small space.

The best rule of thumb is to stick to a four-pointed compass rose for small, quarter-sized tattoos, and get larger as you add detail.

Give your compass rose tattoo some room to breathe.

Of course, you may want a large tattoo of a four-pointed compass rose, which can also look cool as heck!

The compass rose makes for a great tattoo because it is a readable tattoo design and instantly recognizable, especially to adventurers and nautical experts.

Arrow & Compass Tattoos

One common compass tattoo has an arrow through its background.

Arrow tattoos usually represent bravery, finding your way, and putting yourself out there.

They can also represent protection.

Coupled with a compass tattoo, they can represent a person who navigates their life with passion and drive.

Arrow and Compass Tattoo
Arrow and Compass Tattoo

The arrow points the compass in a specific direction.

The arrow tattoo and compass tattoo signify direction through life.

If you feel you have found a specific purpose in life, then you could get an arrow and compass tattoo to remember your unique path has been chosen. 

Hourglass & Compass Tattoos

Clock or hourglass tattoos often serve as a reminder that our life will end at some point.

It’s a way of befriending shadowy themes, staring fear of the inevitable straight in the face.

Hourglass and Compass Tattoo

The compass can add some optimism to this tattoo design.

It could symbolize a person who wants to see it all in the time they have.

Clock & Compass Tattoos

Both the clock tattoo and the compass tattoo can mean guidance, so together they are a strong symbol of leadership and control.

Clock and Compass Tattoo

The clock guides you through the day with time, while the compass can direct you where you’re going.

If you have time and physical directions leading you through life, then you certainly have a lot of guidance.

Mandala Compass Tattoos

When the compass is placed on top of a mandala, an intriguing and absolutely beautiful tattoo takes form.

The mandala comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “circle,” and refers to eternity and wholeness.

This compass tattoo means that your soul is on an eternal journey.

Dream Catcher & Compass Tattoos

Compass tattoos can also mean that you are following your dreams.

With the dream catcher tattoo, this meaning becomes mystical and symbolic of chasing after your wildest fantasies.

Dream Catcher and Compass Tattoo

This tattoo can also mean that you are heading in the direction of the unknown; we do not know what we will dream about every night, however, we know it will always be an exciting adventure.

Skull Tattoos & Compass Tattoos

The skull tattoo and compass tattoo can refer to your own direction being ill-fated, or that a direction you were on was a negative one.

Skull Tattoo and Compass Tattoo

Maybe you want to remind yourself that your fate is your own mortality— a hard part of life to accept.

Compass Tattoo Styles

Have you found your way to some inspiration?

A compass tattoo is such a cool design that can be done in so many ways.

The compass tattoo looks good in multiple tattoo styles; it can be worn by practically anybody.

If you’re still not sure how you’d like to portray this navigational tool, explore our gallery for some adventurous inspiration!

  • Black & Grey Compass Tattoos
Black and Grey Compass Tattoo
Black and Grey Compass Tattoo
Black and Grey Compass Tattoo
Black and Grey Compass Tattoo
Black and Grey Compass Tattoo
  • American Traditional Compass Tattoos

It can be said that only tough guys and gals get American traditional tattoos; they are always bold and heavy look.

The American traditional compass tattoo means that no one can mess with you: the compass provides all the luck you need to keep trouble at bay.

American Traditional Compass Tattoo
  • Geometric Compass Tattoos

Geometric compass tattoos are usually in black and use shapes like diamonds and triangles.

A geometric tattoo style is a cool and interesting tattoo to get!

Practically described by its style, the compass tattoo’s meaning is independence, including being unique from others.

Geometric Compass Tattoo
  • Watercolor Compass Tattoos

The watercolor tattoo style is a creative one with a splash of color in the background of a black compass.

The watercolor compass tattoo also represents independence because of its unique style.

The compass embodies finding one’s own way to do something or to be you, and the watercolor tattoo technique adds brilliant color to this meaning.

Watercolor Compass Tattoo
Watercolor Compass Tattoo
  • Black-work Compass Tattoos
Blackwork Compass Tattoo
Blackwork Compass Tattoo
Blackwork Compass Tattoo
  • Graphic Compass Tattoos
Graphic Compass Tattoo
Graphic Compass Tattoo
  • Sketchy Compass Tattoos
Sketchy Compass Tattoo
  • Trash Polka Compass Tattoos
Trash Polka Compass Tattoo
  • Neo-traditional Compass Tattoos
Neo-traditional Compass Tattoo
  • Fine Line Compass Tattoos
Fine Line Compass Tattoo
  • Stick & Poke Compass Tattoos
Stick and Poke Compass Tattoo
Stick and Poke Compass Tattoo

Compass Tattoo Ideas

Although many meanings related to compass tattoos have something to do with bodies of water, they mostly in fact have to do with direction.

One of the coolest parts of choosing a compass tattoo is you can pick which direction the compass faces.

For example, if you wanted to symbolize your move to the west, you could get a “W” compass tattoo.

Compass tattoos make so many symbolic gestures towards how your life has meaning and the subjective experiences we all face each day.

Choosing a compass tattoo all depends on what part of life’s journey you want to commemorate.

  • Small Compass Tattoos
Small Compass Tattoo
Small Compass Tattoo
Small Compass Tattoo
Small Compass Tattoo
Small Compass Tattoo
Small Compass Tattoo
  • Simple Compass Tattoos
Simple Compass Tattoo
Simple Compass Tattoo
Simple Compass Tattoo
  • White Ink Compass Tattoos
White Ink Compass Tattoos
  • Compass Tattoo Sleeves
Compass Tattoo Sleeve
Compass Tattoo Sleeve
  • Compass Tattoo Half Sleeves
Compass Tattoo Half Sleeve
Compass Tattoo Half Sleeve
Compass Tattoo Half Sleeve

Tattoo Placement

  • Compass Wrist Tattoos
Compass Tattoo on Wrist
Compass Tattoo on Wrist
Compass Tattoo on Wrist
Compass Tattoo on Wrist
Compass Tattoo on Wrist
Compass Tattoo on Wrist
  • Compass Forearm Tattoos
Compass Tattoo on Forearm
Compass Forearm Tattoo
Compass Forearm Tattoo
Compass Tattoo on Forearm


When you hold a compass in your hand, wear one as a pendant, or get a compass tattoo, you are tapping into a legacy that goes back for centuries.

Everyone has a different reason for getting a compass tattoo, but in the end, they all want to commemorate something important: a goal, or a journey.

Symbolically, compasses are our guide in the endless maze of life’s possibilities, pointing us in the right direction.

Whether you’re getting a compass tattoo to celebrate the journey of marriage, the start of a new project, or the birth of a child, they’re perfect for expressing a unique and deeply personal message.

Related posts:

What does a compass tattoo mean?

Wrong Path
Good Luck