Why Arrow Tattoos Have a Deep History

In addition to being highly customizable, arrow tattoos are a popular design choice. Due to the fact that an arrow tattoo can be inked on almost any part of the body and in any size, there are endless possibilities for making it unique. It goes beyond the physical aspects of your design; arrow tattoos have a lot of meaning behind them. With tattoos, one can permanently memorialize personal elements of one’s life with meaningful symbols, and the arrow is a popular design. Whatever meaning you attach to an arrow tattoo, it will make a powerful and meaningful statement.

Arrow Tattoos: Where Do They Come From?

As the arrow is associated with many cultures, the arrow tattoo could have originated in many different places. As arrows were such an integral part of life, many tattoo artists consider American Indigenous peoples as the most likely origins. Arrows are most commonly associated with hunting and protection. In addition to its status as a weapon, the arrow was also a symbol of peace and other philosophical ideas.

There are even certain designs associated with specific tribal traditions. An arrow bundle, for example, represents one of the five founding tribes of the Canadian Iroquois League, along with its strength and unity. It is also possible that a downward arrow represents peace in some other cultures.

Another strong contender for popularizing arrow tattoos is the American Traditional style, which uses bold symbols-one of its most well-known designs is a heart with an arrow through it. To keep loved ones close when traveling far for deployment, sailors (and later all military service members) got arrow-and-heart designs. A tattoo of this kind is a stereotypical design, and someone who doesn’t know anything about tattoos could probably cite it, so even if it wasn’t created by American Traditional artists, it served to popularize it in some way.

Arrow Tattoos: What Do They Mean?

Struggle and Triumph

Due to its use as a tool and weapon, arrow tattoos naturally represent struggle and triumph. In a design with an arrow being pulled back on a bow, tension, conflict, or life struggle are represented. Peace and calm may instead be symbolized by an arrow resting on a bow. The arrows pointing away from each other represent war or conflict, another design idea that symbolizes struggle.

A tattoo of an arrow with a feather, however, symbolizes triumph over that life struggle or conflict, as well as freedom and independence. The idea of struggle and victory is often associated with arrow tattoos, whether they are poised or relaxed.

Moving Forward

An arrow can only move forward when it’s shot, so the design often represents moving forward, either physically or mentally. The release of an arrow from a bow is literally “moving” forward, but it also symbolizes positive transitions in life. The compass arrow tattoo symbolizes moving forward in a new direction or starting a new chapter in your life. An arrow made of diamonds, one of the world’s toughest materials, is another common design choice that symbolizes strength.


A design featuring more than one arrow typically represents a traditional relationship, since there are two people involved. A tattoo design with crossed arrows could represent complicated relationships or friendship. Cupid’s arrow is a symbol of romance and desire, as it represents either an arrow piercing through a heart or an arrow placed on a cherub’s bow.


In addition to being a tool of war, arrows are also symbols of peace. By burying the hatchet, or putting aside a quarrel for the greater good-whether that is the greater good of oneself or the greater good of another-a broken arrow symbolizes putting aside a conflict for the greater good. In an individual, personal sense, a single arrow can also serve as a symbol of protection against harm or peace.

No matter why you get an arrow tattoo, it’s guaranteed to be full of meaning, both personally and historically. Here are a few ideas to get you started if you’re not sure what kind of arrow tattoo would best represent you.


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