Although arrows have always been a common element in tattoo designs, lately they are becoming especially popular – usually as standalone tattoos rather than as a part of a larger image. The simplicity of arrow tattoos holds an appeal for a number of reasons, aesthetic value and variety of meanings being key among them.
The origins of arrow tattoos can be traced back to Native American tribal life. There, bows and arrows were an essential weapon used for both hunting and war – providing sustenance and protection from harm.
Arrow tattoo meaning
If you’re looking for a design that is simple yet full of meaning, an arrow tattoo is definitely worth considering. As a symbol, the arrow stands for several values and ideas, including:
- Protection – one of the earliest ways in which humans could protect themselves was bow and arrow – hence why the arrow remains a symbol of protection from harm.
- Friendship – two crossed arrows can be used as a symbol of friendship, closeness, and being ‘on the same side’. This symbolic meaning has origins in Native American culture.
- Positivity – one of the cultural meanings of arrows is that of positivity. In a tattoo design, the arrow can be used on its own or alongside other elements to represent a positive attitude.
- Moving forward – we all know the arrow to be a universal symbol of direction – arrows point the way. An arrow tattoo could symbolize following a path, not giving up, moving on, or simply always moving forward – for instance through continuous self-improvement. The image of an arrow going through a diamond is a common way of expressing the idea of courage in moving forward.
- Achievement – similar to the notion of moving forward, the arrow can also symbolize achievement – particularly through overcoming obstacles or successfully following a path towards individual success.
- Masculinity – during humanity’s early stages, hunting was primarily the domain of men. Hence the arrow remains a symbol of masculine strength.
- Love – slightly in contrast with the arrow’s other symbolic meanings, the association with love comes from the popular image of the cupid – and the cupid’s arrow causing people to fall in love.
If you have any particular symbolic significance in mind for your tattoo, it could be a good idea to compliment it with other elements that will clarify the idea you’re going for. Then again, there’s a lot to be said for keeping the significance of your tattoo personal – a simple arrow tattoo design that holds meaning only to you could also be an interesting option.
Meanings in the Native American culture
The arrow is one of the most prominent symbols seen in the Native American culture. The specific meaning of Native American arrow tattoos alters depending on the way in which the arrow is depicted. For instance:
- Single arrow – as a tattoo, a single arrow tattoo will tend to look elegant and minimalistic. As a Native American symbol, it generally stands for power and direction – though the way in which it is facing also holds significance. A single arrow pointed to the left means warding off evil, to the right – protection, and pointing down – peace.
- Double arrows – as mentioned above, two crossed arrows represent friendship. Two parallel arrows facing the opposite directions, meanwhile, are a symbol of war and conflict.
- Multiple arrows –a bundle of arrows symbolizes unity and strength in numbers. The origins of this notion are simple: several arrows together are more difficult to break than a single one.
- Broken arrow – a broken arrow doesn’t have to be a negative symbol. In fact, in Native American culture it is often used to symbolize peace – in a literal sense, the end of war or conflict.
Combining arrows with other elements
A single arrow design makes for a great tattoo. Elegant and stylish, it’s also an optimal choice for first-timers due to its simplicity – basic arrow tattoos won’t take long to complete and are usually relatively discrete.
However, arrow tattoo designs can include other elements to add further layers of meaning. For instance, independence and liberty are associated with the image of an arrow with a feather through its shaft, while an arrow piercing a compass represents a new direction in life.
An obvious combination to consider is that of a bow and arrow. Unsurprisingly, as a set these have their own symbolic significance: an arrow being pulled back on a bow is a symbol of tension, conflict, and struggle. Meanwhile, an arrow being released from a bow symbolizes a positive transition. It also suggests taking a step back in order to move forward.
Popular Pictures Of Arrow Designs
Arrow tattoo placements
As with any other tattoo, the size of the design will influence the ideal placement. Arrow tattoos can be scaled down to very small – suitable for tattooing on the wrist, ankle, or even on the finger. Medium-sized arrows look great on forearms, chest, thighs, and calves. Large designs are perfect to be placed along the spine.
Celebrities with arrow tattoos
Arrow designs are a popular choice of tattoo for both sexes and all ages – but also for celebrities. Examples include:
- Lynn Gunn – has a simple black arrow design tattooed on her left forearm.
- Ellie Goulding – has an arrow tattoo located on her right index finger. What makes Ellie’s tattoo unique is the fact that it is colored with white ink.
- Bethany Cosentino – has a tattoo with two crossed arrows (friendship symbol, as described above) on her lower chest.