Shark Tattoo

Nautical Tattoo Meanings: An Illustrated Guide

Nautical Tattoo Designs and Their Meanings

You don’t have to be a sailor to have a nautical tattoo!

Nautical tattoos are popular because they remind everyone of the sea which creates images of tranquility and of overcoming obstacles.

Nautical tattoos come in many shapes and sizes and involve literally anything relating to the sea and ships.

Let’s take a look at what nautical tattoos, in general, mean:

What Do Nautical Tattoos Mean?

Nautical tattoos have many meanings, including keeping your calm.

When the sea in your head and heart is a raging storm, you must keep in mind that eventually the storm will pass and therefore you must keep your calm.

Calm seas represent the tranquility you have in your mind and soul and how you are generally a level-headed person.

Tattoos such as compasses or a North star can symbolize the direction you are heading in life and your great journey through your sea of experiences.

Many nautical tattoos refer to your own journey through life as a ship you are guiding through rough seas and calm seas as different things happen in life– a beautiful metaphor.

Of course, if you are a sailor, nautical tattoos can be very important to you.

They can represent your time on the sea and be a remembrance of your experiences on a ship.

You may even want to get a lettering tattoo of the name of the ship you frequented with your nautical tattoo.

Along the same lines, nautical tattoos can symbolize patriotism for your country and how you are proud of their naval capacity.

Last, it is known that nautical tattoos can actually ward off bad luck and be excellent good luck charms.

Now, let’s look at some nautical tattoo designs and see what their meaning are:

Nautical Tattoo Designs

There are many nautical tattoo designs that demonstrate not only a love for the sea but also strong meanings that are personal and close to the heart.

Let’s take a look at some of these great looking tattoos:

North Star Tattoo

Having a tattoo of the North star means that you desire more direction in life.

Sailors used the North star to help them navigate their ships and find their way home.

North Star Tattoo

The North star tattoo can help you find the right direction in life and even help to take you home, wherever that is.

If you feel as though you are aimlessly wandering through life with no direction, a North star tattoo can be a symbol of a change in your life towards the right path.

Anchor Tattoo

The anchor tattoo is a classic nautical tattoo.

The job of the anchor is to keep the boat in place when it is not moving.

Therefore, anchor tattoos symbolize stability.

Anchor Tattoo

Often, people receive a lettering tattoo with the ancho tattoo of the name of someone that they love and who “anchors” them or grounds them.

Anchor tattoos also represent the power and strength that you have to stay firm and hold your ground even when people are trying to shake your emotions.

Crossed Anchor Tattoos

A crossed anchor tattoo is another tattoo that is specific to a type of sailor job.

Crossed anchor tattoos represent that a sailor is a boatswain’s mate.

The reason why the anchors crossed represents a boatswain’s mate is because this duty requires a good amount of teamwork hence the anchors coming together.

Shark Tattoo

Sharks are overwhelmingly powerful and fearsome creatures of the sea.

Shark tattoos mean that you are able to stand your ground in an argument and make your case without letting someone else sway your decisions.

Shark Tattoo

This tattoo also means that you are a predator in your own way and that you are a shark yourself, meaning, you are determined to get out there and win with a lot of success.

Shark Tattoo

This tattoo is great for businessmen or women, lawyers, or those who work on wall street because it means that you are an aggressive person who never gives up.

Ship Tattoos

Ships tattoos are common with sailors who want to remember their times on a ship they served on, and may even want to place a lettering tattoo of the name of the ship along with it.

Ship Tattoo

For those who have not served on a ship, this tattoo means that you have a call for adventure, and the path to that adventure is where you find your home.

Indeed, this tattoo is for those who have no real home, but who are always on the move.

Fully Rigged Ship Tattoos

This is another tattoo that is specifically known to sailors.

Ship Tattoo

A fully rigged ship means that it has three or more masts that are fully deployed.

This tattoo means that this sailor has traveled around the difficult waters of Cape Horn.

Ship Wheel Tattoo

Without a ship’s wheel, no one can steer it in any direction!

This tattoo represents the direction you are heading in life.

Ship Wheel with Anchor Tattoo

Whether you are heading in a negative or a positive direction in life, this tattoo is meant to keep you on track and make sure that the best path for you is clear.

Swallow Tattoo

A swallow tattoo is a marker for sailors who have sailed 5,000 miles.

Some sailors even receive one on each arm, representing 10,000 miles sailed.

2 Swallows Tattoos

This is, of course, a great honor.

The swallow tattoo also represents the idea of returning home.

Swallow Tattoo

If you have been on a long journey, you may want to get a swallow tattoo when you have completed that journey as a symbol of making it back in one piece.

Shellback Turtle Tattoo

This tattoo is another one that has a specific meaning to sailors.

If a sailor has a turtle tattoo, it means that they have crossed the equator.

Shellback Turtle Tattoo

Turtle tattoos, in general, also mean that you want to live a very long life.

This tattoo refers to your personal journey through life and how you want to experience a lot more great memories before you leave this universe.

Crossed Cannons Tattoo

A crossed cannon tattoo is another common nautical tattoo that refers to naval service.

Crossed Cannons Tattoo

If you have served in the navy and you are proud of your service, a crossed cannon tattoo can represent your fondest memories and symbolize the great triumph you had in your time at sea.

Hula Girl Tattoo

Hula girl tattoos relate to Hawaii and are great for those who want to remember the splash and water of the seas of those islands.

Hula Girl Tattoo

They also are an ode to sailors who want a pretty girl on their arm while they serve months at sea (with no access to the fairer sex).

Dragon Tattoo

A dragon tattoo doesn’t seem like it is a nautical tattoo.

That’s because it is actually a unique symbol only known among sailors.

Dragon Tattoo

If a sailor has a dragon tattoo, it means that the sailor has traveled to a port in China or that they have served at a Chinese station.

Rope Tattoo

Rope tattoos mean that you have worked for some time as a deckhand.

Rope Tattoo

They represent the toils of this job and are for those who are proud of their work on the ship.

This tattoo is specific to this position as a sailor and is not popular for regular folk.

Mermaid Tattoo

Mermaid tattoos are treated like tattoos of sirens– these women sing songs that lure sailors to their deaths.

Mermaid Tattoo

Mermaid tattoos are great tattoos for anyone who has done long stretches of travel at sea.

This tattoo reminds people of the dangers of the sea and how the ocean can take someone’s life at any time.

Hold Fast Lettering Knuckle Tattoo

This specific knuckle lettering tattoo is highly visible and is for those who want a bold look.

Hold Fast Lettering Knuckle Tattoo

This tattoo refers to “holding fast” on the ropes that control the ship and making sure that you have a strong grip on the ropes.

This tattoo is designed specifically for those who take sailing as a no-joke operation.

Celtic Sailor’s Knot Tattoo

A Celtic knot is a knot that is intertwined and connected in one big swirling knot, just as a Celtic sailor’s knot is.

This knot represents the similarly unending love of a sailor and his lover, whether it be his wife or his girlfriend.

Celtic Sailor’s Knot Tattoo

Sailors often miss their lovers because they travel away from them for a long time.

This Celtic tattoo means that the sailor will never forget their love for their lover despite the distance and time.

Twin Propellers Tattoo

This tattoo is typically involved with one propeller on each butt cheek.

This “cheeky” set of tattoos is supposed to be a good luck charm to help the sailor avoid drowning.

Twin Propellers Tattoo

The two propellers are supposed to “propel” you to land and help you avoid dying in a shipwreck.

Polynesian Tribal Nautical Tattoo

This kind of tattoo often shows different sea animals such as turtles and sharks.

Polynesian Sea Turtle Tattoo

Polynesian tattoos often have spiritual meanings and those of the ocean represent death and what is beyond our lives on Earth.

Pig or Rooster Tattoo

This is a kind of funny joke tattoo among sailors that is meant for sailors who don’t know how to swim.

Rooster Tattoo

These sailors get a pig or a rooster tattoo on their feet.

This tattoo is quite interesting and is rare because most sailors know how to swim!

Dagger Through a Swallow Tattoo

This unique sailor’s tattoo means that a sailor has lost a comrade.

Dagger Through a Swallow Tattoo

This tattoo makes sense for others who love the sea and have lost a friend or family member, those who lost someone to the sea, or truly anyone who has lost someone important to them.

Harpoon Tattoo

A harpoon tattoo means that you are part of a fishing fleet.

This specific tattoo is meant for those who dedicate their lives to the sea catching fish.

Harpoon Tattoo

This vigorous job deserves its own tattoo because this is an important and difficult job.

Polar Bear Tattoo

This tattoo is for those who crossed the Arctic Circle, known as the “Northern Domain of the Polar Bear.”

This person is also called a Blue Nose sailor.

This opportunity is very rare and definitely deserves a tattoo.

Polar Bear Tattoo

There is also an even more specific tattoo where the polar bear is covered in gold.

This tattoo means that you have surfaced a submarine on the fifth parallel, also called an ice walk in the Arctic.

Little Red Devils Tattoo

This unique tattoo refers to those who work in the “pits,” which is often referred to as being like working in a hellish environment.

Red Devil Tattoo

These men worked in cole-run steam engines in the mid 19th century, and these tattoos are an ode to these men.

Pin-Up Girl Tattoo

Many sailors receive a pin-up girl tattoo, referring to their many months or even years at sea without female company.

Pin-up Tattoo

Many sailors leave behind women that they love and pin-up tattoos can ease this feeling of missing them and represent their hope of returning home to their wives or girlfriends.

Octopus Tattoo

Octopus tattoos are an interesting type of nautical tattoo– these sea creatures have spunk!

Octopus tattoos mean that you value intelligence.

Octopus Tattoo

They also mean that you are set on overcoming your fears.

Octopus tattoos also represent resilience, and the desire to achieve positive growth throughout your life.

Lighthouse Tattoo

The purpose of a lighthouse is to warn ships about their location and stop them from crashing.

They are a beacon of light amongst dark waters.

Lighthouse Tattoo

Lighthouse tattoos, therefore, are a reminder that even when things seem bleak and dark, there is hope and light out there.

These tattoos are a symbol of hope and can push you to go forward even when the going gets tough.

Compass Tattoos

Are you capable of navigating any situation you are placed in?

Compass tattoos are all about the direction you are going in life and how to set foot on the correct path.

Compass Tattoo

You can use a compass tattoo to remind yourself of where you’re headed next and that you must continue through life with positive energy.

Are Nautical Tattoos Only For Sailors?

Many of the tattoo designs we have discussed seem to be meant for male sailors.

What about us common folk?

Well, many sailor tattoos are indeed meant for male sailors, or simply sailors in general.

Many are even for specific styles of sailors.

However, there are many such as anchor tattoos that are about staying grounded and are for anyone to enjoy.

In fact, many nautical tattoos are open for anyone to get.

It is all about picking the right tattoo!

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